Thailand revokes order limiting Covid-19 reporting

Bangkok, Aug 10 (EFE).- Thailand revoked Tuesday a recent controversial law that punished with up to two years in prison the dissemination of information about the pandemic that “generates fear among the population,” even if they were truthful.

The government made this decision after a Bangkok court suspended the order Friday, sanctioned under the emergency law in force due to the Covid-19 pandemic, considering that it violates fundamental rights.

Authorities had the possibility to appeal the decision, but have chosen to withdraw the law completely.

Prime Minister Gen. Prayut Chan-ocha approved the law on Jul. 29 amid strong criticism against the management of its vaccination campaign and the inability to stop the current outbreak of the virus.

A group of local journalists filed a lawsuit in a civil court in the capital that ruled that the legislation limited the right to information and conflicted with “civil rights and liberties protected by the constitution.”

The court also underlined the ambiguity with which the norm is drafted and considers that it “opens up to the possibility of a broad interpretation” that would put the information work of the media or the free expression of people’s opinions at risk.

“If they hadn’t stopped him, (Prayut) would not have backtracked. The courage of a group of reporters to report has prevented Prayut from taking advantage of an unconstitutional order. There is no law to silence the ‘bad information’ about the current situation.” Sunai Phasuk, a researcher at Human Rights Watch, said on Twitter.

Thailand is experiencing a strong outbreak of the pandemic, linked to the delta variant of the virus. The country registered 19,843 new infections and 235 deaths Tuesday, the highest number of fatalities in one day.

The outbreak has led the government to impose a night curfew in Bangkok and 28 other provinces, the limitation of meetings to five people and the closure of restaurants, shopping centers and other establishments, among other measures.

The government has ruled out approving a 24-hour confinement and stricter restrictions against the outbreak detected in April and that since then has accounted for more than 95 percent of the 795,951 cases registered since the beginning of the pandemic and up to 98 percent of the 6,588 deceased.

The vaccination campaign is weeks behind the official calendar and so far only 4.6 million people, about 6 percent of the vaccinable population have received the full dosage, while almost 16.5 million or about 25 percent have at least one dose. EFE


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