PM repeals gag order after Civil Court ordered temporary suspension

Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha has withdrawn the 29th order under the Emergency Decree that banned the distribution of information causing fear or public disorder regardless of its veracity.  This follows a Civil Court ruling to suspend the order on the grounds that it was unconstitutional and exceeded the powers of the government.

Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha

The withdrawal was published in the Royal Gazette on 10 August, saying that the Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) believes that it could ask the court to cancel the order, but as the order has not been enforced and there are other available legal provisions, the PM has ordered the repeal of the 29th order.

The original order was signed by Gen Prayut and published in the Royal Gazette on Thursday (29 July). It was issued under Article 9 of the Emergency Decree and was effective as of Friday (30 July).

The Civil Court suspended the order on 6 August, claiming that the ban is not limited to misrepresentation, which is given as the justification for the order, and is a deprivation of people's rights and freedoms as protected by the Constitution. The ban is also not compatible with the part of the regulation which indicates the need to "render reasonable the exercise of right and freedom of expression" in accordance with the Constitution.

The order prohibited the reporting or distribution of information which may cause public fear or which intentionally distorts information creating misunderstanding during the emergency to the point where it affects national security, or peace and order, or the good morals of the people, whether through printed publication or any other form of media.

If the information is published online, the order also gave the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) the authority to order an internet service provider (ISP) to find out which IP address the information came from and to suspend internet services to that IP address.

The ISP must also inform the NBTC of the IP address and other related information, and the NBTC must inform the national police headquarters in order to press charges. The NBTC may also launch legal proceedings against any ISP who does not follow its order.

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