New York, October 14, 2016–The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on Thailand’s military government to lift a blanket censorship order on television news broadcasters imposed in the wake of King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s death yesterday.
According to local news reports, all television news channels including foreign broadcasters were blocked and replaced with Royal Household Bureau footage eulogizing the Thai king. Local media were also barred from using Facebook live indefinitely, according to reports. Bhumibol, the world’s longest-serving monarch at the time of his death, reigned for 70 consecutive years.
Government spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd said that broadcasting would return to normal at midnight after the mandated broadcast of the king’s coffin procession this afternoon. The government had planned to impose the ban for a full month but revoked the censorship order after complaints from local stations, the reports said.
“While CPJ sympathizes with the Thai people over the passing of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, we lament that the government has resorted to crude censorship at this sensitive time,” said Steven Butler, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator. “We urge military authorities to follow through on their promise to lift the ban and allow all journalists to report on this important story without threat or harassment.”
Sansern said that local television stations will be barred for a month from airing entertainment programs such as game shows and soap operas during a military-enforced period of national mourning. Thailand’s junta, installed in a May 2014 coup, has enforced broad media censorship directives, outlined in orders No. 97/2557 and No. 103/2557, that bar reporting that could “create confusion, instigate unrest, or deepen divisions among people” or is “malicious” or “misleading” about the military regime or its actions, CPJ research shows.
In July, the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission was empowered to shutter media outlets, without the right of appeal, for reasons of national security. Under executive order 41/2559, the commission can block any broadcast news or information it deems “detrimental to the political system, or [that] may destabilize national stability or damage the moral values of the people,” reports said. Those powers have been used to pressure news stations to censor and suspend critical broadcasters, CPJ research shows.