Thailand: freedom of expression under threat

English PEN joins PEN International in calling on the Thai army to allow journalists and other writers to continue their essential work documenting and commenting on the emerging situation as martial law is imposed in Thailand. Amidst rising political instability and escalating violence in the country, its 1914 martial law poses serious threats to freedom of expression

Military intervention is never the answer to failure of political leadership. For example, it is unacceptable that the army should order media to limit interviews to officials. A lack of public transparency will encourage, not discourage violence. This evolution of events is increasingly dangerous,’ said John Ralston Saul, President of PEN International.

The Thai army imposed martial law on 20 May 2014, citing ‘political demonstrations and protests by various groups of people … and widespread armed attacks aimed at inciting violence against the public’.  In the following hours the newly-established Peace and Order Maintaining Command (POMC) issued a series of orders closing down 14 broadcast media outlets and all unauthorized community radio stations. Restrictions on reporting and on social media were imposed under Orders 3 and 9 to prevent the spreading of ‘false information’ and to ‘maintain law and order’.

Whilst there were no initial reports of censorship in the print media, the same orders give the military authority to ban the publication, distribution or selling of information that is considered ‘distorted’ and that could lead to public misunderstanding.

The restrictions imposed are very broad and limit the freedom of expression of people in Thailand at a time when informed and constructive dialogue and debate are all the more necessary to move towards a peaceful resolution of the current political unrest in Thailand,’ said Carles Torner, Executive Director of PEN International.

For further background information, please visit the PEN International website.

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