Supreme Court accepts Prachatai lawsuit against ICT Ministry

The Supreme Court on Friday affirmed the decision of the Appeal Court to accept Prachatai’s lawsuit against the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology (MICT) for unfairly blocking the news website for almost nine months in the wake of the 2010 political violence. 
 
The Supreme Court’s decision allows a civil case between Prachatai as plaintiff and MICT and the Finance Ministry as defendants to go to trial.
 
Five years ago, when the anti-establishment red-shirt supporters staged mass demonstrations in March-May 2010, the Abhisit Vejjajiva administration from the pro-establishment Democrat Party ordered the blocking of Prachatai and 36 other websites under the Emergency Decree for allegedly disseminating information which may affect national security.
 
The order was effective from 8 April to 22 December 2010. Prachatai was blocked for 258 days in total. Prachatai had to create several alternative URLs to escape the censorship. These URLs, however, were also blocked. 
 
In its suit, Prachatai asks the two ministries to pay compensation of 350,000 baht.
 
Prachatai first filed the case at the Civil Court in late April 2010. The court did not accept the case, reasoning that the authorities can shut down media under the power of the Emergency Decree. 
 
Prachatai argued that it did not disseminate information violating Article 9 of the Emergency Decree, which prohibits the dissemination of distorted information which may affect national security, and that the authorities’ decision to block Prachatai was unjust. 
 
“We decided to file the case because we want to assert the principle of the Emergency Decree that the authorities still have to be liable for their orders,” said Chiranuch Premchaiporn, director of Prachatai.
 
The authorities never gave reasons for blocking Prachatai, nor pointed out any content which allegedly violated Article 9. 
 
The Civil Court scheduled the preliminary hearing for 23 March.