The Civil Court dismissed a case brought by Prachatai against the government within 5 hours of the complaint being filed, without examination of witnesses.
On 23 April, at 10 am, Chiranuch Premchaiporn, Director of the Prachatai website, filed a lawsuit with the Civil Court against Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, Deputy PM Suthep Thaugsuban, Minister of Information and Communications Technology Ranongrak Suwanchawee, the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology, and the Ministry of Finance, accusing them of violating constitutional rights and freedoms and demanding 350,000 baht in damages. She asked the court to issue an injunction against the government’s blocking of the Prachatai website.
Chiranuch was later told by court officials that an examination of witnesses would be held at 1.30 pm. The witnesses included Chiranuch, Prachatai Editor Chuwat Rerksirisuk, Prachatai reader Sarinee Achawananthakul and media expert Assoc Prof Dr Ubonrat Siriyuwasak.
However, at about 5.30 pm, the court ruled to dismiss the case, without examination of the witnesses, saying the accused were authorized to act by the Emergency Decree.
Although Paragraph 4 of Section 45 of the Constitution guarantees the rights of free media, the PM and the Deputy PM were authorized by the Emergency Decree. Paragraph 2 of the same Section of the Constitution forbids the banning or partial banning of news reportage by the media, unless authorized by specific national security laws, the court said.
Therefore, the action of the PM and the Deputy PM was lawful. The ICT Minister Ranongrak Suwanchawee just followed the order of the Deputy PM to block the website. So there was no violation of the plaintiff’s rights, and the plaintiff consequently could not demand damages from the MICT and the Ministry of Finance, the court said.
Prachatai website was among 36 websites which were ordered blocked by the government on 7 April.
According to Chiranuch’s complaint with the court, the government did not substantiate its decision to block the website with any reason or evidence which shows that the news reportage and comments on the website might affect national security.
The damages resulting from such an action of the government could not be assessed in terms of money, but in order to set a precedent to prevent government abuses in future, the plaintiff demanded 350,000 baht as compensation from the defendants.