Thailand passes anti-disinformation law amid Covid-19 management criticism

Bangkok, Jul 30 (EFE).- Thailand will impose sentences of up to two years in prison for the dissemination of false news or that create fear about the Covid-19 starting Friday, amid strong criticism of the government’s management of the pandemic.

“To maintain the stability of the country … no one will publish news, distribute or disseminate information that contains messages that scare the public or cause misunderstandings,” the order published in the Royal Gazette read.

The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission is authorized to ask internet providers to suspend their services immediately if it is considered platforms are spreading false content about Covid-19, the order read.

The measure comes amid strong criticism of the Thai government for its handling of the new Covid-19 outbreak and the delay in its vaccination rollout, while the country registers record numbers of infections with the hospital system collapsing.

The opposition criticized Friday the government’s measure and said it is an attempt to silence criticism that violates the constitution’s right to freedom of expression.

“Instead of solving the problems of the vaccination campaign caused by government mismanagement (…) they charge the media and citizens as an enemy. With this order they seek to restrict information and silence people,” said Chaitawat Tulathon, secretary general of the opposition Move Forward party, during a press conference.

Representatives of the media in a joint statement criticized the government’s attempts to restrict freedom of expression.

Thailand, which is experiencing its worst Covid-19 outbreak since the beginning of the pandemic due to the strong impact of the delta variant, recorded a record number of infections Friday with 17,345 new cases and 117 deaths.

Bangkok and twelve other provinces are under partial lockdown, which imposes a night curfew and limits meetings to five people, the closure of restaurants and leisure establishments, among other measures.

The vaccination campaign, which began in February, is lagging behind the initial schedule presented by the government, and so far only about 5 percent of the eligible population has received the full course. EFE


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