After coup, Thai military moves swiftly to silence broadcasters

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 May, 2014, 11:27pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 May, 2014, 11:27pm
AFP

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When Thailand's generals declared martial law on Tuesday, one of the first casualties was freedom of information, with a swift crackdown on any murmurs of dissent on television and social media.

Soldiers occupied several broadcasters and took a number of television channels off air in what they said was a necessary measure to keep the peace.

Last night, after it announced the coup, the military took even greater control of the media and ordered all television and radio stations to suspend programmes and show only the army's broadcasts. The move was to ensure the release of "accurate news to the people", an army spokesman announced on television.

Several politically partisan broadcasters had earlier switched to the internet to dodge the censors. But representatives from internet service providers were summoned to a meeting on Wednesday and instructed to block any content deemed to threaten peace and order within one hour of its discovery.

Pro- and anti-government channels almost immediately moved to YouTube or other web streaming sites to sidestep the curbs on television broadcasting.

"They shut us down because we belong to a political movement who could attack them," said Artit Kalainegrn, a reporter for pro-government "red shirt" channel UDD.

Its rival BlueSky, which has delivered round-the-clock coverage of anti-government rallies, also moved to YouTube and other streaming sites.

In response, military brass on Wednesday issued an edict targeting the internet, setting up a special body to monitor the web.

Even before the declaration of martial law, Thailand faced criticism about its curbs on the media, particularly harsh royal defamation legislation which critics say is used to muzzle free speech and political dissent.