Freedom House, an organisation that looks into press freedom and freedom of speech, just published the 2017 iteration of its annual “Freedom on the net” report. Said report shows Thailand being further on the decline, ranking now 67/100.
The introduction as per Freedom House reads:
Internet freedom declined to its lowest level yet in 2017, continuing a downward spiral that began when the junta seized power. Censorship increased following the death of the king, and a slew of laws codified repressive measures introduced under a state of emergency.
Thailand entered its third year under the military regime during the reporting period. High-ranking military officers effected a coup d’etat in May 2014, and renamed themselves the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO). A roadmap to return to civilian rule has been repeatedly postponed. In August 2016, a national referendum on a new constitution was held under a law which effectively prohibited campaigning against it. That constitution came into effect on April 6, 2017, retaining the NCPO’s absolute authority to make important government appointments and issue directives without oversight.
In October 2016, the widely-revered King Rama IX passed away at 89 years old, launching a year of mass grief and unprecedented restrictions on content, many of which are justified under laws that ban criticism of the monarchy. Media suspended regular programming for 30 days, and news regarding the ascension of King Rama X to the throne was tightly controlled. Foreign news was subject to blocking, and a prominent anti-junta student activist was arrested after he shared a BBC Thai article about the new king on Facebook.
Regressive legislation further undermined internet freedom. The independence of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) was significantly reduced, and all TV, radio, and telecommunications spectrum returned to government control, undercutting two decades of media reform efforts.
The amended Computer Related Crimes Act (CCA) passed in January 2017, despite significant opposition from internet freedom activists. Internet users, journalists, and activists continue to be prosecuted because of the law’s problematic terminology, which the amendments rendered even more ambiguous. A notice and takedown procedure for internet intermediaries could encourage more widespread content removals. The law also grants the authorities more powers to block and remove offending content.
Efforts to control online expression look set to continue, including a proposal to license journalists and bloggers under a state-linked media association that could create a chilling effect and reduce the diversity of information and viewpoints available online in the future.
Key developments that led to the score are stated to be as follows:
- Censorship and rights violations intensified after the death of King Rama IX in October 2016 (see Blocking and Filtering, Content Removal, and Intimidation and Harassment).
- Amendments to the Computer-related Crimes Act failed to reform clauses that undermine internet freedom, expanding official censorship and surveillance powers instead (see Blocking and Filtering, Content Removal, and Surveillance, Privacy and Anonymity).
- A new constitution came into effect in April 2017, even as internet users were prosecuted for campaigning against it before a 2016 referendum; it kept the military government’s emergency powers on the books and codified emergency orders issued since the 2014 coup (see Legal Environment).
- Laws passed in 2017 reduced the independence of the telecommunications regulator and transferred its remit to a commission chaired by the prime minister (see Regulatory Bodies).
- Military courts sentenced at least two internet users to more than a decade each in prison, one based on private chat messages criticizing royalty; another was sentenced to 70 years in prison in June 2017, reduced to 35 because he pleaded guilty (see Prosecutions and Detentions for Online Activities).
You can read and download the complete report on freedomhouse.org.
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