The Civil Court orders the police to control protests with regard to media safety

On 10 August, the Ratchadaphisek Civil Court ordered the police to exercise care in the control and dispersal of protests by taking into consideration the safety of the media.

Fully equipped crowd control police enter the protest site on 7 August.

The court order is in response to a request for emergency protection from 2 media plaintiffs regarding police crowd control measures that affect the safety of reporters exercising the freedom of the press while covering protests on the ground.

The request for temporary protection was filed on 9th August by 2 journalists who were injured by the police use of force at the 7 August protest, accompanied by lawyers from the Human Rights Lawyers Alliance.

The reason for the request was that protection is necessary in order to safeguard the  exercise of the people's rights and liberties from foreseeable damage from the authorities’ use of force.

The plaintiffs asked the court to issue 4 orders.  The court has only agreed partially to the third request.

  1. Have the National Police Commissioner, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner and the Crowd Control Police Commander order police not to use violent measures such as rubber bullets, tear gas and chemical-infused liquid to attack people and clearly identified members of the media. 
  2. Prohibit the police from threatening journalists or restricting their ability to do their duty.
  3. Have the National Police Commissioner, Metropolitan Police Commissioner and the Crowd Control Police Commander order police to act in consideration of the safety of people and the media.
  4. Order the police not to violate the universal Basic Principles of the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, adopted by the United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders in 1990 and the principle of dealing with public assemblies provided by the Public Assembly Act.

It should be noted that the court order does not mention protection of protesters. The order also states that the journalists must abide by their professional guidelines. 

The Emergency Decree announced in 2020 exempts government officials from being sued in the Administrative Court. The Civil Court is therefore the only way to file lawsuits against the authorities regarding their methods of operation.

Protesters have faced increased violence from police as confrontation escalates. Amid state concerns about the sharp increase in Covid-19 infections, the media this year have increasingly found themselves in the line of police fire. At least 8 journalists covering protests have been hit by rubber bullets , and many more have been affected by tear gas and police restrictions on their activities.

Source: 
prachatai.com/journal/2021/08/94406

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