Thai court suspends government order on ‘false messages’
BANGKOK, Aug.6 (Reuters) – A Thai court on Friday suspended the execution of a government order banning the dissemination of “false messages” and false information, ruling that it violated individual rights and freedoms enshrined in the constitution .
Media groups had filed a petition to revoke the order after accusing the government of intending to use it to quell criticism over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
The government had denied it was targeting the media, and Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said last week that the spread of fake news had become a major problem causing confusion in society and undermining the ability to handle the pandemic.
The order issued last week, which also allowed the state regulator to block internet access and prosecute those it said was spreading fake news, came after the government faced to a public reaction to its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more
Thailand’s civil court ruled that the order violated individual rights and freedoms enshrined in the constitution and therefore could not be enforced, after 12 online media filed a petition with the court this week.
In a statement, the court said the order could result in “the deprivation of the rights and liberty of plaintiffs and constitutionally protected persons”, and that the wording of the order was ambiguous and “opens the possibility for a broad interpretation ”, which would limit freedom of expression.
The court also said the order, which would allow the state regulator to order service providers to block internet access to individual IP addresses, was illegal. He therefore issued a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction which suspended the execution of the order.
Government spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri declined to comment on the court ruling when contacted by Reuters.
Thailand is grappling with its deadliest wave of coronavirus infections to date, recording daily records of infections and deaths on Friday, exacerbating concerns about the slow rollout of the vaccine.
Authorities have taken legal action against some people, including celebrities and social media influencers, who have criticized the response to the pandemic.
Reporting by Panu Wongcha-um Editing by Ed Davies and David Holmes
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