Thai Court Shelves Banning of “False Messages” Dissemination

A civil court in Thailand ordered on Friday the suspension of the government’s directive to criminalize the dissemination of “false news” or stories that could prompt public panic.

The ruling came after several media groups decided to file a petition to the civil court to revoke the anti-disinformation law which the Thai government issued on July 29.

The media organizations alleged that the legislation will be used to clamp down their criticisms over the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic in the country.

In the petition, the groups also indicated that the law has threatened the basic rights and liberties of the people, as well as the media which has the right to inform the public about the daily situations in Thailand amid the worsening COVID-19 pandemic which already sparked outrage and protests.

The Royal Gazette published late July about a government order that would ban all “false messages” and distorted news that could lead to public panic and affect Thailand’s national security during the implementation of the Emergency Decree.

However, the civil court ordered to shelve the government’s directive, saying that it violated the individual rights and freedom of the citizens under the provision of the constitution.

In the ruling, the court said that Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s administration has no authority to ban the dissemination of fake news and distorted news while threatening to shut down certain IP addresses or media that reportedly violated the decree if found guilty.

“Considering that Section 9 of the Emergency Decree on Public Administration in Emergency Situations B.E. 2548 (2005) (No.29) provides the Prime Minister no authorization to suspend internet service provision,” the court said in a press release.

“It is the view of the Court that, considering the existence of several legal instruments establishing the measures concerning illegal dissemination of information and the government’s capability to educate people, develop public understanding and examine false information, the suspension of the enforcement of such Regulation does not pose any obstacle to public administration in emergency situations and the public interest,” it added.


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