iLaw says curbs curtail free speech
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iLaw says curbs curtail free speech

The Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw) group has slammed new restrictions issued under the emergency decree to curb the latest wave of Covid-19.

On its Facebook page, iLaw targeted Announcement No.27 under the emergency rule which, it said, includes a provision (Restriction No.11) limiting free speech during the current situation.

"No.11 is to prevent the distortion of information that may cause misunderstanding in emergency situations.

"Presenting or disseminating news via newspapers or other media with messages that may cause panic among the public or has the intention to distort information that causes misunderstandings in emergency situations that affect the security of the state, peace and order, or decent public morals nationwide violates Section 9 (3) of the 2005 Emergency Decree on Public Administration in Emergency Situations,'' iLaw quoted from the decree.

Violators are liable to a jail term of no more than two years and/or a fine of no more than 40,000 baht.

iLaw posted that the government previously issued similar curbs under Announcement No.1 on March 26 last year which have been in effect for a year and four months.

Although since then other restrictions have been amended or relaxed, those on the presentation of news and information had not been revised, and were now being replaced by the newer and tougher rules, iLaw noted.

iLaw posted that Restriction No.11 under Announcement No.27 is shorter than the previous announcement, and contains some key differences.

Announcement No.1 prohibited the presentation of fake news and false information about Covid-19 that causes panic, but the new announcement only mentions "messages that may cause panic" and omits the term "fake", iLaw posted.

This can mean those who drew up the restriction may want to take aim also at people who spread true information which causes panic, it said.

Pol Col Kissana Phathanacharoen, a deputy spokesman for the Royal Thai Police, said that about 50 people had been prosecuted on charges of spreading fake news about the Covid-19 outbreak and vaccines last month.

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