People urged to not 'quietly accept' govt's media censorship

People are not really questioning the government's decision to censor media, simply because they believe it is acceptable under the emergency decree, said Chiranuch Premchaiporn, webmaster of prachatai.com, which is being blocked because it is considered to be pro-red shirt.

"There are no questions asked and people just accept it," she said at a meeting held yesterday [May 13] to discuss freedom of expression on the Internet. The forum was organised by the Netizen Group, an online club of Internet users.

Supinya Klangnarong, deputy chairperson of the Campaign for Popular Media Reform (CPMR), said the government might become used to censoring media at whim, especially since it has blocked more than 600 websites since emergency was declared on April 7.

"Normally, censorship is not allowed, but the government might get used to it because they've been able to do it under the emergency decree," she said, referring to the widespread censorship of red-shirt media and outlets sympathetic to the movement. She also warned that this censorship was affecting the country's international standing.

In addition, the government's newest threat to block cellphone signals at the Rajprasong rally site also violated the freedom of expression.

"What we need to do now is diffuse the political stand-off first, and then talk about reconciliation," she said.

Mana Trirapiwat, lecturer of mass communication at the University of Chamber of Commerce, said online censorship reflected an "old frame of mind", under which the government believes that control is the key.

"The old frame of mind is to use power to deal with problems, but they can't shut down [the new media] completely. There's no space for grey area [under this mentality]. It means, if I am white, then you must be black," he said, adding that if a red-shirt government were in power, it would probably do the same.

People at prachatai.com have been fighting the censorship by coming up with new addresses over the past week and urging other webmasters to not give up that easily.

"We must show that the online world cannot be shut down. The only way would be to launch an M79 grenade at our office or abduct Chiranuch," Chuwat Rertsirisuk, editor of prachatai.com, said.

Kowit Pothisarn from Media Monitor group said censoring the media was not a political solution, and advised the government to review its stance. 

Source: 
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