Court orders suspension of Voice TV’s online platforms

Voice TV’s online platforms are facing suspension after the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society (DES) obtained a court order for its suspension, claiming that it has violated the Computer Crimes Act and the order of the chief official under the severe state of emergency.

According to The Reporters, Putchapong Nodthaisong, Deputy Permanent Secretary of the DES, said that the Ministry submitted video clips and photographs of the recent protests published by Voice TV, The Standard, The Reporters, and Prachatai, as well as the student activist group Free Youth’s Facebook page, to court on 16 October and has now obtained a court order to suspend all of Voice TV’s online platforms.

The DES claimed that the content they submitted to court is considered false computer data and therefore violates Section 14 of the Computer Crimes Act. It also said that the content violates the order of the chief official under the severe state of emergency.

Declared in the early morning of 15 October, the severe state of emergency bans mass gatherings as well as the publication of information that “could create fear”, affects national security, or damages public morals.

Putchapong said that the court order will now be delivered to each platform, and that Voice TV can continue broadcasting, but must make a new account and must not spread information that is against the law. However, he said that the DES has not obtained a court order for the suspension of The Reporters, Prachatai, The Standard, and Free Youth.

Voice TV’s chief executive officer Makin Petplai issued a statement on Monday after it was reported that there was a police order for the investigation into and possible suspension of the four media outlets, as well as Free Youth’s Facebook page, saying that Voice TV did not spread misinformation or damage security or public peace and order.

“Throughout the past 11 years, Voice TV has been a media organization that stands by democratic principles. We have given space for the people’s ideas openly, transparently, and we have always taken responsibility for the facts from every sides. We insist that we have presented information which is valuable and beneficial to the society, and we call on the relevant persons to exercise their power and responsibility to society fairly,” said the statement.

The journalist and media academic group Media Inside Out also issued a statement condemning the order for Voice TV’s suspension without giving the chance for an appeal and questioning the claim that Voice TV’s reporting violated the Computer Crimes Act and the order under the Emergency Decree.

“The order to suspend a media outlet is an infringement of the rights and freedoms of the press and freedom of expression, which are basic rights of the people in a democratic system, and is a threat to the rights of the people which are recognized in the constitution,” says the statement.

“This suspension order was issued even though many sides involved with freedom of the press have already make it known that they disagree with the use of measures to shut down the press, because it is held to be tantamount to violating the rights and freedoms of the press and the people’s freedom of expression. This kind of action equals sending a signal that the government is still not using a political approach to solving problems, and could therefore be interpreted as meaning that they are ready to use force to suppress dissenters. Our group calls for an urgent reconsideration of this order, as well as an end to harassment of the press, no matter which outlet.”

At 9.00 on 21 October, Voice TV announced on their Facebook page that the order has yet to be enforced, and that all of the outlet’s online channels, including website, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are still available, as well as their Twitch channel VOICETV x TWITCH.