FREEDOM AGAINST CENSORSHIP THAILAND--NOW!

Mon, 11/13/2006 - 00:05 -- ประชาธรรม

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

anywhere.

 

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.

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