FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
THAILAND: Groups launch campaign against internet censorship
(Hong Kong, November 15, 2006) A group of media professionals, academics and other concerned persons in Thailand on Tuesday announced that they will file a petition with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) against the "secret" blocking of websites there.
The group, calling itself Freedom Against Censorship Thailand (FACT) has called for an end to government internet censorship, which it says is typical of "an insecure government in a feeble attempt at control of its citizens".
Pointing out that there some two billion websites in the world today, the group has asked whether the government of Thailand could block them all, or whether its real purpose is to target those critical of its administration.
"There is no Thai law which permits such blocking, all of which is done in secret," the group said in a statement.
"Government agencies also will not disclose their criteria for blocking websites or who, in fact, is making these decisions. Nor will they define what is considered 'a threat to national security'," it said.
The group said that it will present its petition to the NHRC at 5pm on Wednesday.
Full text of its statement follows.
The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) strongly supported the call.
"A vibrant society, a tolerant society, is one in which there is free exchange of opinions and ideas," Basil Fernando, executive director of the Hong Kong-based regional rights group, said.
"We ourselves constantly use and appreciate the internet as a medium for distribution of news and views, and are naturally concerned at reports that censoring of its contents is going on out of the public eye," Fernando said.
"If the authorities in Thailand feel that they have a legitimate right to block certain sites, such as those with pornographic contents, then they must do that in the open, and respond to the calls of others for a complete freeing up of cyberspace," he said.
The AHRC has distributed a large amount of material critical of the September 19 military coup in Thailand through its websites.
Most recently it launched a page on "fictions versus facts" of the coup, at http://thailand.ahrchk.net/fiction-fact.
It is not known as to whether this page has been blocked anywhere in Thailand.
FREEDOM FROM CENSORSHIP THAILAND--NOW!
A distinguished group of academics, journalists, publishers, business owners and parents today formed the Freedom Against Censorship Thailand (FACT) to file a formal petition before the Thai Human Rights Commission asking for a complete ban on Internet censorship in Thailand.
Since 2002 when Internet censorship was initiated by the Thai government, more than 35,000 websites have been blocked. The Ministry of Information and Communications Technology (MICT) blocks 2,500 websites; the Royal Thai Police, 32,500; and the Communications Authority of Thailand (CAT) an unspecified further number.
There is no Thai law which permits such blocking, all of which is done in secret. In fact, the 1997 Thai Constitution guarantees unfettered access to all communication, as does the Thai Telecommunications Act. MICT has funded a study from Sukhothai Thammathirat University's legal faculty to determine how current laws can be used to enforce Internet blocking in order to subvert and undermine the foundation of law enshrined in the Thai Constitution.
The Thai Government conceals a hidden agenda by targeting pornographic websites, the majority of those blocked. At least 11% of websites blocked are critical of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, his Thai Rak Thai (TRT) party, government handling of the violence in southern Thailand and the September 19 coup d'etat.
In addition to keeping this blocklist secret, Thai government agencies also will not disclose their criteria for blocking websites or who, in fact, is making these decisions. Nor will they define what is considered "a threat to national security". This lack of public transparency is in direct contravention of the Information of Government Act 2540.
Since September 19, MICT is also blocking public discussions in which comments and replies from the public are posted to moderated and unmoderated webboards such as Prachatai, Pantip and Midnight University. Midnight University has already brought their case before the Human Rights Commission and the Administrative Court and was granted an interim injunction to unblock their website pending the Court's final determination.
MICT has also blocked anonymous proxy servers through which Thai Internet users can access a blocked webpage. The Ministry has also requested Google Thailand and Google USA to block access to its cached web pages in Thailand by which blocked pages can be accessed, as well as to block by keyword search. Both these methods are used as tools
used for political repression in China.
As of October 13, 2006, websites from BBC 1, BBC 2, CNN, Yahoo News, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, The Age, Amazon.com, Amazon UK and Yale University Press containing articles about His Majesty King Bhumibhol and Thaksin are also being blocked by MICT.
The blocking of websites or, in fact, any government censorship of freedom of expression, is most often used by an insecure government in a feeble attempt at control of its citizens. Usually the censorship is directed against views government deems unconventional or unorthodox, if not an outright threat to power, as in Burma or China or North Korea or, in fact, in the USA using its PATRIOT Act. Thailand is not Burma or China or North Korea (yet). Perhaps Aung San Suu Kyi said it best: "We have nothing to fear but fear itself."
There are an estimated more than two billion distinct websites, including at least ten million pornographic sites. Is blocking millions of sites A) within the Thai government's capabilities; B) worth the huge expenditure necessary; or C) just a smokescreen for a far more sinister political agenda?
Internet censorship impacts on academic research, business competition, media freedom, and family education, among many other fundamental rights and freedoms.
We estimate that at least 40% of Thai graduate students will be unable to complete thorough, effective theses or dissertations due to blocked websites. This means these Thai graduates will never be able to compete with international graduates.
It should also be noted that we have a dearth of libraries available in Thailand, especially in the provinces; the Internet is, for many, the only source for research and information.
The Internet is presently the only forum in which all opinions are equal, neutral and non-commercial. Should not any person judge the validity of those opinions for themselves? We do not believe the World Wide Web should be in any manner curtailed, censored or managed
Freedom Against Censorship Thailand is a partner in the Global Internet Liberty Campaign (GILC) and has received statements of support from more than 70 international organisations including Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) whose website is blocked by MICT).
The world is watching. Internet censorship is improper, obscene and illegal in a democratic Thailand.
CJ Hinke tel. 087-976-1880 (English)
Supinya Klangnarong tel. 086-788-9322
List of petitioners
Roby Alampay, Southeast Asian Press Alliance
Dr. Charnvit Kasetsiri, Thammasat University
Prof.Dr.Nidhi Eoseewong, Midnight University
Dr. Chintana Sandilands, Australian National University
Chiranuch Premchaiporn, Prachatai
Easterwood Press, Canada
Dr. Giles Ungpakorn, Chulalongkorn University
Dr. Jittat Fakcharoenphol, Kasetsart University
Junya Yimprasert, Thai Labour Organisation
Kanet Kongsaiya, Norway
Dr. Kasian Tejapira, Thammasat University
Pravit Rojanaphruk, The Nation
Jan McGirk, Open Democracy
Dr. Rangsun Thanaporpun, Thammasat University
Dr. Craig J. Reynolds, Australian National University
Dr. Rom Hiranpruk, National Science & Technology Development Agency
Sombat Boonngamanong, 19sep.net
Dr. Somkiat Tangnamo, Midnight University
Southeast Asian Press Alliance
Supinya Klangnarong, Campaign for Popular Media Reform (CPMR) The Office of Human Rights and Social Development,Mahidol University
Sirote Klampaiboon, East-West Center, University of Hawaii at Manao
Thai Labour Campaign
Dr. Thongchai Wichakul, University of Wisconsin
John Twigg, Publisher, Metro Magazine
Mr. Suthep Wilailerd, Campaign for Popular Media Reform (CPMR)
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About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.