The Committee to Protect Journalists expressed its outrage on Monday over the Thai military's new crackdown on press, Internet and social media freedom.
The committee called for an "immediate reversal" of the Thai junta's latest order for increased media control. The National Council for Peace and Order issued an edict on Friday that prohibits any form of media criticism of the junta, its policies or operations. Any news outlet that goes against these restrictions can reportedly be shut down by Thai military and police officials. A coup d'etat in May left the military in control of Thailand's government.
"This overbroad order against any media criticism represents an open invitation for state authorities to arbitrarily abuse their powers in suppressing the media," CPJ's Southeast Asia representative Shawn Crispin said. "If junta leader General Prayuth Chan-ocha was genuine about his stated intention of reforming politics and restoring democracy, his junta would promote, not curb, press and Internet freedoms."
Phansasiri Kularb, a journalism lecturer at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, told the AP that Chan-ocha "said on his televised program, repeatedly since the coup, to urge those who disagreed with his views to open up their mind and talk, but this announcement says the opposite."
The edict also bans any media interviews of anyone, including scholars and former civil servants, whose opinions could create "conflict" or tensions with the junta.
CPJ noted the case of Thanapol Eawsakul, editor and founder of Fah Diew Gahn, who was detained by the military in July over criticisms he made on Facebook. Journalists expressed their concerns and fears on Saturday about the Thai military government's tightening grip.
"This is basically a gag order," co-founder of Thai Netizen Network Sarinee Achavanuntakul told the AP. "I think it is very dangerous and, to me, it signals that the coup makers may not have a clear idea of who the enemies are."