The information and communication ministry asked Internet Service Providers on 24 April to lift the censorship on 72 news websites operated by the government’s “Red Shirt” opponents. Aree Jiworarak, the head of the Information Technology Supervision Office, thanked them for their “cooperation.”
The Freedom Against Censorship in Thailand (FACT) website has meanwhile been rendered inaccessible by three ISPs (ToT, Kasetsart University and Buddy Broadband) since 25 April.
Reporters Without Borders deplores the censorship, closure and banning of many media linked to the opposition United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) since the UDD’s violent “red-shirt” demonstrations in Bangkok on 13 April.
The authorities have raided community radio stations in the north and east of the country under a state of emergency. And Internet Service Providers have been ordered to censor at least 67 websites linked to the UDD, which supports former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
“We firmly condemn the violence by UDD supporters but we also deplore the reprisals which the authorities have taken against media linked to this movement,” Reporters Without Borders said. “If calls for violence have been made in these media, they must be punished by the courts and not in an arbitrary fashion by the police.”
The press freedom organisation added: “Such actions by the authorities cast doubt on the desire to ‘reconcile the different political parties’ professed by the government when it took office. We call for the lifting of the state of emergency, which just blocks access to news and information and encourages a climate of fear.”
A spokesman for the ruling Democrat Party said the radio stations were closed for “inciting violence.” The UDD’s leaders meanwhile accused the main news media of lacking independence and of “demonising” their movement.
Several TV crews were roughed up by “red-shirts” during the first few days of the UDD demonstrations. In one case, demonstrators forced the state-run NBT TV to suspend operations in the north-east by besieging its studios.
A newly-created English-language website (http://redshirtreport.wordpress.com/) is using material from various Thai news outlets to denounce alleged cases of disinformation about the UDD demonstrations.
In the weeks that followed the coup that ousted Thaksin Shinawatra in 2006, the authorities closed hundreds of community radio stations deemed to be pro-Thaksin.
See a list of websites that have been censored by the information ministry since 18 April.