Opinion: The government is targeting media like Thai Enquirer with new law; we say bring it on

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha instructed his lawyers, this week, to study laws in other countries and eventually draft a law that would control the online media in Thailand.

The official reason is that Thailand needed a mechanism to prevent the spread of fake news especially on items related to national security.

But one can hypothesize that the truth had much to do with the criticism that the government has received over its Covid-19 response program from online platforms such as ourselves.

Obviously if this law were to pass, Thai Enquirer would be one of the entities that would be targeted under the new law.

We have already been called fake news in parliament by a Palang Pracharat MP for reporting that India had offered the government AstraZeneca vaccines last year but were rebuffed.

As an aside, the MP said that India had offered vaccines but it was not AZ but a locally produced vaccine. A curious assertion considering Delhi had provided AZ vaccines to virtually all our neighbours including Laos, Myanmar, and Cambodia. How curious it is that they would then only give Thailand a lesser vaccine.

This law, as commentators have noted, is an affront and a threat to free and fair press inside this country. It would make our job thousands of times harder and open us up to lawsuit and the threat of legal harassment by the government.

We are not afraid. As I am sure that other online news portals committed to press freedom and holding the government to account are unafraid.

The government’s actions means that we are doing something right.

But even then, it is disappointing that this is what the government are resorting to. When Thailand transitioned back from dictatorial rule to the current semi-democratic state, one would have hoped the military minds of Prayut and Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan would have learned something.

You would have hoped that the millions of Thais criticizing the government online and the hundreds of thousands of Thais marching on the streets would have taught them some humility or some clarity.

Instead, we are being taken back to the dark days of military rule because the government believes criticism aimed at them is a threat to the entire nation. That they are unable to differentiate between a political party, its rule, and the fabric of the nation is arrogant and worrying.

But here we are, even as Deputy Prime Minister and legal predator Wissanu Krea-Ngam thinks of an excuse to shut us down, we promise to you that we will keep reporting to the end.

The only thing that is needed for tyranny to succeed is for fear to grip those that would otherwise do the right thing.

Thai Enquirer was founded because too many of our contemporary, through self preservation or sycophantic considerations, were afraid of criticizing the dictators that have run this country for the past seven years.

At TE, even one day is one day too long to tolerate an autocracy never mind seven years. This new law may make it more difficult for us to do our jobs but its introduction assures us that we are on the right path. We promise that this will only reinvigorate us and motivate us. It is a physical necessity.

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