Reporters Without Borders questioned the basis of some provisions of a decree adopted 19 July giving Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra power to censor the press, tap phones, impose curfews, detain people without a warrant and ban public gatherings.
The cabinet has declared a state of emergency in the country’s Muslim-majority southern provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat and in Songkhla, near the Malaysian border, following a series of armed attacks in Yala on 14 July.
"We have no doubt of the need to counter endemic violence that has rocked the south of the country for the past 18 months, but the reasons given by the authorities do not justify this decree that restricts press freedom and civil rights to such a worrying extent," the worldwide press freedom organisation said.
The authorities in Bangkok complain that the media has been "dramatising" and thus aggravating the situation in the southern provinces. The new law won cabinet approval on 15 July and was signed by the King Bhumibol Adulyadej the following day, taking effect on 19 July without even going before parliament.
Several organisations, including the Thai Journalists Association (TJA), the Thai Broadcast Journalists Association, the National Press Council of Thailand and the Southern Newspaper Association have signed a joint statement in reaction to the step.
This urges the government "to reassure the public it will swiftly solve the unrest in the south and promise the public that the emergency decree will be cancelled once the violence is brought to an end." The organisations also called on the authorities to repeal a 1941 law that limits the rights of the press in "emergency situations".