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Netizens, Thais condemn media gag

Publication Date : 23-05-2014


Thais and expatriates have taken to social media to condemn attempts by armed forces to censor and stifle the media since taking power in a coup on Thursday evening.

Leftist activist Giles Ji Ungpakorn commented on his Facebook page that "Prayut (Chan-O-Cha) dispensed with the charade of receiving orders from the king. He just announced his power grab by himself, pushing the monarchy aside and exposing its total lack of power in the face of the military."

"The last time the army raided bookshops and libraries in Thailand was on Oct 6,1976. Now they are doing it again and increasing Internet and website censorship," he added.

Thai journalists, such as Bangkok Post senior news reporter Achara Ashayagachat have also taken to social media to comment on the coup.

"Niwatthamrong Bunsongpaisal is the shortest-lived PM. 16 days in office, thanks to the coup @4.30 pm. Thawee Bounyaket had 17 days in office," he said via his Twitter account  @AAshayagachat.

This media shutdown has also been criticised by the Southeast Asian Press Alliance (Seapa) in a press release, which took the military government to task for shutting down news channels, which they noted "conveniently avoided members of the mainstream media associations."

"The shutdown of these channels - though highly politicised and in the control of political protagonists - has targeted the relatively newer channels of information that has represented the recent expansion of media freedoms in Thailand, away from the docile mainstream print media and the state or army-controlled broadcast media," it said.

It added that the martial law authority was focused on suppressing criticism of Thai armed forces, and not on containing inciting and polarising speech that fuelled violence and conflict.

It added that orders from the Peace and Order Maintaining Command (POMC) have been "chillingly focused on the media and free expression" including the prohibition of the sale, distribution of any content which can cause fear and misunderstanding of the military's actions".

It also said five out of 12 Martial Law orders from the POMC directly impact media freedom and freedom of expression.

Meanwhile, Seapa executive director Gayathry Venkiteswaran said that Thai cable and service operators have been told to de-link their foreign news services.

"The only stuff allowed are army broadcasts and the usual Royal Family news. Thai PBS may be off-air but is bravely going on over YouTube," she added.

She claimed that Wanchai Tantiwithayapitak, PBS deputy director was later escorted out of the studio by troops.

On Twitter, expatriates commented on the blocking of both free TV stations and satellite news channels.

"Can no longer watch @CNN here in #thailand all channels are broadcasting military anthems and messages #ThaiCoup," said one Twitter user, Zane Keller (@Zkellr).

Freelance journalist Francis Wade (@Francis_Wade), tweeted "BBC, CNN and Al Jazeera taken off the air in #Thailand as of 19.48 Thai time (via @JonahFisher) #ThaiCoup".

"With Int'l news stations being taken off the air, the internet is your friend.   BBC News Int'l #ThaiCoup," said Coffee Beans & Greens owner Charles Pulaski (@charlespulaski).

He also shared a tweet by travel blogger @RichardBarrow, which said "BBC World & CNN are being blocked in #Thailand by the military but we can still watch them on Internet TV #ThaiCoup"

On his Twitter, Barrow added, "The TAT (Tourism Authority of Thailand) are setting up a help center for both incoming & outgoing tourists at Suvarnabhumi Airport #Bangkok #Thailand #ThaiCoup."


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