Court dismisses Prachatai lawsuit against MICT

The Civil Court has dismissed a case brought by Prachatai against the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology (MICT) for shutting down the website during the 2010 political violence; the Director says Prachatai will appeal as the verdict does not answer the question why the website faced a shutdown over a report that also appeared in other media.

On Monday, 11 July 2016, Bangkok’s Civil Court announced the verdict in Case No. 1455/2010, in which Prachatai sued the MICT for claiming the authority under the Emergency Decree to shut down its website on 7 April 2010. If found guilty, the Ministry would have to pay Prachatai 350,000 baht as compensation.

The verdict stated that one problematic article on the website claimed that the government under Abhisit Vejjajiva, the then PM, to be a military-appointed government and the content of the article could mislead the public. A news report on a red-shirt protest group in Chiang Mai could lead to a severe disturbance. Therefore, the MICT order to shut down the website in 2010 was legitimate and the Ministry was not responsible for any compensation.

Chiranuch Premchaiporn, Prachatai Director, said that Prachatai will appeal the case since the court did not answer the plaintiff’s question as to why the website faced a shutdown over stories that were also reported by other media, adding that the appeal is to fight for the professional ethics of journalism.   

Six years ago in March-May 2010, when the anti-establishment red-shirt supporters staged mass demonstrations, the Abhisit 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 created several alternative URLs to circumvent the censorship. These URLs, however, were also blocked.
 
Prachatai first filed a case in the Civil Court on 23 April 2010 against five defendants: Abhisit Vejjajiva (then PM), Suthep Thaugsuban (Director of the Centre for Resolution of Emergency Situation (CRES) established to maintain security during the red shirt protests in 2010), Ranongrak Suwanchawee (ICT Minister), the MICT and the Ministry of Finance. However, the court refused to hear the case, reasoning that the authorities can censor the media under the Emergency Decree.  
 
However, Prachatai appealed the verdict to the Court of Appeal, arguing an abuse of government power, since Prachatai did not violate Article 9 of the Emergency Decree. The court ruled that Prachatai could file an appeal but only against the MICT and the Ministry of Finance.  The Ministries appealed this decision to the Supreme Court, but the Supreme Court confirmed the decision of the Court of Appeal.     

(Read the witness hearings of the case here)

Bangkok Civil Court