Thai Court Blocks Government’s Restriction on Covid News Reports

A civil court in Thailand has temporarily blocked a government order, made July 29, that prohibited news reports that can instigate “fear” among the public or lead to “misunderstandings” of efforts to control the Covid-19 outbreak.

The government said the order, signed by Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha, was aimed at combating fake news, but critics viewed it as an attempt to censor expression and silence criticism of how the outbreak was being managed. Twelve organizations filed a petition earlier this week, which led to the civil court’s ruling on Friday to prohibit enforcement of the order.

“The court has blocked the order and has said that the main reason is to protect people’s rights and liberties guaranteed in the constitution,” Thapanee Eadsrichai, a Thai journalist and representative of the group, said after the decision. The government’s order was too vague and could infringe upon freedoms, she said.

Prayuth’s administration has been criticized for its slow vaccination rollout and response to the current wave of infections, which surged to a record number on Friday. Opposition parties plan to submit a petition this month for a censure debate, which would be the government’s third no-confidence vote since a general election in 2019.

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