The government will pass an emergency decree this week aimed at battling disinformation but critics say the act is open to abuse and could be used to silence dissidents.
According to the government, this emergency decree, emergency order number 27, is meant to suppress harmful information that could cause the public to panic during the coronavirus pandemic.
The government has said that misinformation about its policies have caused undue panic and unwarranted criticism, something it wants to cut down on.
However, critics warns that the way the act is written means that the government could use it to silence critics and dissidents.
“The new order is very vague,” said Yingcheep Atchanont, a leading activist at the Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw).
“The government does not define what kind of information could be deemed as information that is “creating fear amongst the public.”
He said that a similar order which came out last year clearly identified fake news as news that would cause undue panic among the public.
However, this new order changes the wording from “causing the public to panic” to “creating fear amongst the public” and they have left out the part which said that such information must not be real.
The new order also bans information that would “detablise the state” which is broader than the previous order.
“With the changes in the wording, the new order is even broader than the last one,” Yingcheep said.
He said in a normal situation, a bill must pass the parliament’s scrutiny before it becomes law.
However, the emergency decree allows the Prime Minister to come up with executive orders that bypasses the legislature.
Yingcheep argues that this is extremely problematic because a wide ranging law that could curtail the public’s freedom of speech has never been looked over by the public’s representative.