Thailand's military junta, the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), announced on 25 June that it is creating panels to control media content and to prevent the media from being use to spread false information that could incite hatred and violence
against the monarchy.
The junta said each media sector: radio, TV, print media, online media, social networks and foreign media, will be monitored by a different panel and each panel will have representatives from the police, army, navy, air force,
foreign ministry, prime minister's office, public relations department and other state bodies.
Criminal proceedings may be brought against media that broadcast content that the junta does not like. The panels will prepare regular reports for Gen.
Prayuth Chan-ocha, the head of the junta, while reporting cases of false information to him immediately.
Benjamin Ismael, the head of the Reporters Without Borders Asia-Pacific desk said:
The creation of
these panels constitutes a new stage in the gagging of news and information by the Thai military junta. Is the junta in the process of creating a system of censorship based on the former Burmese model?
The composition of the panels
and complete absence of media representatives suggest a level of freedom approaching zero. No details have been given on how the panels will operate. Reporters Without Borders urges the NCPO to abandon this plan altogether as it could introduce an
unprecedented degree of censorship in Thailand.
Japan's government is considering allowing late-night dancing in public establishments, potentially ending police raids that have blighted nightclubs across the country.
Dancing at public venues is technically illegal in Japan and is only permitted
until midnight in clubs with a special licence, a vestige of morality laws passed in 1948.
The police has renewed enforcement of the law in recent years and raids invoking the law have spread to other cities, with police breaking up parties and
closing some clubs. No dancing signs have even become a common sight at many venues.
However, a public backlash against the law has spurred debate in parliament. Of course government interest in relaxing the laws is nothing to do with
making life more enjoyable for the people, its more that big businesses are looking to cash in on an increase in tourism ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Committee secretary general Tsukasa Akimoto, of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, told AFP:
This law is unnecessary. Why should dancing be illegal? Obviously the Olympics are a factor. It's realistic to expect the law to be changed by the end of this year. I think politicians and authorities are feeling pressure
as they don't want Japan to be seen as a boring place by foreign tourists,
Takahiro Saito, a Tokyo-based lawyer who has spearheaded a movement against the law called Let's Dance, organised a petition which was signed by 150,000
people. This prompted a group of nonpartisan lawmakers to urge reassessment of the law and in April the Osaka District Court exonerated a club owner charged for violating the dance ban, setting a legal precedent.
This week the prime minister
will submit for government approval a deregulation bill which proposes removing the anti-dancing clause.
China has introduced new rules to restrict journalism. The rules say that journalists and their news organizations are forbidden from initiating critical reporting that has not been approved.
The new rules also prohibit a host of other
journalistic activities. Reporters may not do reporting across industries or focus areas . News outlets are forbidden from establishing businesses in advertising, publishing or public relations. And they can't even circulate critical documents internally or on private websites. +
The government rules seem related to recent announcement that over 14,000 press cards had been revoked for supposedly bogus journalists. The measures also appear designed to address corruption scandals involving news outlets found to be practicing
black PR, obtaining profits through paid-for content.
The government had just
announced that month that reporters were not allowed to report anything, even on their own blogs and social media sites , that had not been approved by an editor at their news organization. The announcement was aimed at heading off enterprising--and
increasingly frustrated--reporters who would often release directly to their own readers information that had not survived their publications' editing and censorship processes.
Indonesian communication and informatics minister Tifatul Sembiring declared its anti-porn mission a jihad, that he says will continue to the end of time. He told the religious griup Indonesian Council of Ulema (MUI):
I have often told young, religious teachers to never stop once they start jihad. A jihad may also be in the field of information.
Sembiring said that Indonesian officials have been able to block about a billion
sites for carrying pornographic content, surmising that there are a minimum of three billion such sites in existence.
Antara News reported that Sembiring has come under heavy criticism after banning Vimeo wholesale.
Nineteen Eighty-Four is a 1984 UK Sci-Fi romance by Michael Radford. Starring John Hurt, Richard Burton and Suzanna Hamilton.
After The Atomic War the
world is divided into three states. London is a city in Oceania, ruled by a party who has total control over all its citizens. Winston Smith is one of the bureaucrats, rewriting history in one of the departments. One day he commits the crime of falling
in love with Julia. They try to escape Big Brother's listening and viewing devices, but, of course, nobody can really escape...
A screening of 1984 , the film version of George Orwell's anti-authoritarian novel, has been
cancelled in Thailand after police claimed it breached a ban on political gatherings, an organiser said.
The novel by George Orwell has become one of the unofficial symbols of resistance against military rule.
The Punya Movieclub in Chiang
Mai said it was scheduled to screen the film but decided to cancel the showing after police said it would be illegal, according to one of the organisers who said:
We just wanted to show the content of the film because
many people are talking about it right now... We show all types of movies. We didn't want to start a political movement.
When we found out the police had a problem with our event we decided to cancel, because we are afraid the
people who come to watch will face problems.
Political assemblies of more than five people were banned under martial law and continued after the coup by army chief Prayuth Chan-Ocha. The ban is enforced very selectively, and has never
been invoked at a cinema.
One form of resistance to the coup has been reader - individuals or small groups sitting on public walkways reading Orwell's novel. Last week, protesters unfurled a giant poster of Gen Prayuth's face with the words
Thailand 1984 written below.
The three-finger salute from The Hunger Games films has become another symbol of resistance against the junta, which has curtailed some freedom of speech and the press.
Chinese internet giant Tencent has closed 20 million accounts on its messaging app WeChat, 5% of the total, because they supposedly offered prostitution services, according to Chinese state media, who dubbed the campaign operation Thunder Strike. +
Last month, when announcing that messaging app platforms like WeChat and others would be cooperating, Chinese authorities threatened that police would hold service providers responsible if they do not fulfill their duty. +
qz.com speculates that the action may be more to do with reminding the country's growing privately owned internet companies to toe the government line. Pursuing prostitution may simply be the
best way to rein in the most successful social media giants. The fact that millions of Chinese internet users are turning to WeChat to post their thoughts, chat, and keep up with the news may be one reason for more scrutiny. China's censorship regime is
still figuring out how to keep tabs on the increasingly popular chat app, which is taking internet users away from the microblog Weibo, a platform authorities have spent years monitoring and censoring relatively successfully.
The propaganda department of Thailand's military junta has been working on overdrive. According to the latest missive, it seems that one can get overwhelmed by the sustained flood of information and the supposed mental burden of differentiating fact from
That's at least what the Ministry of Public Health (MOPH) thinks and has warned of over-consumption of news, which may lead to mental stress. The government press release reads:
deputy permanent secretary of the Ministry of Public Health, on Friday cautioned those who constantly follow up on political developments against stress. According to him, the continuous exposure to such news could cause mental stress, and people at risk
of such stress are advised to follow only the news from state-run news outlets in the morning and evening.
MOPH warns against mental stress resulting from over-consumption of news .
National News Bureau of
Thailand, May 24, 2014
But this is not the first time that Thai health officials are warning against the too-much-information syndrome. Back in the summer of 2012 asiancorrespondent.com reported that a spokesman of the Mental Health
Department of the public health ministry specifically warned people not to follow political news for more than two hours in a sitting , since that could result in what they coined as Political Stress Syndrome (PSS). The government kindly
provides a self diagnosis quiz for PSS:
1) Do you feel anxiety when expressing political opinions? , 2) Do you feel hopelessness regarding the current political situation? , 3) Do political
news make you feel easily upset or angry? , 4) The political situation keeps you awake at night? , 5) Are you unfocused at your job or daily activities when thinking about politics? 6) Politics causes fights and arguments
with others? 7) Are you feeling afraid when following political news? 8) Are you repeatedly thinking about the political situation?
Ministry of Public Health Press Release, July 13, 2012
The same department warned politically curious Thais for the first time way back in March 2006 of said syndrome. Psychiatrists are afraid that people with accumulated PSS symptoms will resort to violent means to break the political dead end because
they feel that a peaceful movement is not a solution to the impasse, a Thai mental health official claimed at the time.
Filmmakers and importers will soon have to dip deeper into their pockets to have their film certified by the Malaysian Film Censorship Board.
Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said the censorship fee would be reviewed after 30 years. He
said the current rate was based on the Film Censorship Regulations 1984 that had not been amended since it came into force. He said:
The number of local and imported films have been on the rise, thus increasing the
burden on the board. Industry players must accept the reality that changes require a high cost and the costs borne by the Government is no longer fair. We have to charge a reasonable fee to those who produce and import films,
urged industry players to understand the board's responsibility in ensuring that creative works by filmmakers were censored to the satisfaction of the Board moralists:
Don't just look to making a profit by producing
films based on superstitions, toyol and ghost stories as we must balance art with social responsibility.
Thailand's Ministry of Information and Communication Technology (MICT) officials called for greater support in their efforts to censor supposedly inappropriate online content.
Piyakhun Nopphakhun, of the Crime Suppression Division of MICT
Even though the military has taken over, they have not commanded us about what to do.
This rather begs the question as to why then is the group looking to ratchet up internet
Since the coup began, the Royal Thai Army has ordered ISPs to monitor online content that might lead to unrest, asked social media companies to prevent the spread of provocative messages and barred media from presenting news
critical of the junta.
Piyakhun then ludicrously claimed that he believed that recent efforts by the Ministry to curb online content were not political in nature. But then he acknowledged that efforts to curb online content could be seen to
This is not because of the coup, it is very normal practice. But I agree that the coup will have some effect. They (the Royal Thai Army) will put more people into helping fight the websites. Some people
may ask about freedom of expression. I have to say that it will actually affect (this).
Piyakhun is keen to speed up the censorship process. He explained:
It takes about a week to block a website.
One or two days to gather evidence. One or two days to get permission from MICT. One or two days to go to court. One or two days to distribute court orders to ISPs. One week is too slow.
At the moment everything is on paper. You
have to print it out, present the evidence to the Ministers and the courts, and you have to present papers to the ISPs. If documents are not signed, we have to wait even longer. Computer officials have to physically travel to the courts to receive court
At the moment we are in the process of getting approval to distribute court orders to the ISPs electronically. We are going to appoint one representative ISP to distribute these court orders to the other ISPs, because that
representative would know which ISPs are active.
Technically, it is going to be very easy. But legally, is the only question. Are there any laws, regulations that allow us to do this legally? Do we really need to be present in
court to present evidence?
Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) has condemned the Norway-based mobile operator Total Access Communication (DTAC) and asked it to clarify a company statement regarding an order by the internet censor to block Facebook.
of Norway, which owns DTAC, this week claimed online that Telenor Group confirmed that on May 28, DTAC received notification from the NBTC at 3pm that it must temporarily restrict access to Facebook. The restriction, which was implemented at 3.35pm,
affected DTAC's 10 million Facebook-using customers. Telenor said it believed in open communication and regretted any consequences this might have had for the people of Thailand. Access to Facebook was restored at about 4.30pm, according to Telenor's
But the Thai authorities weakly claimed the Facebook blackout was due to technical glitches and not purposely blocked. Colonel Settapong Malisuwan, chairman of the NBTC's telecom committee flannelled:
DTAC's statement has caused extensive damage to the regulator's image. We want the company to take responsibility by clarifying exactly who ordered Facebook to be blocked.
There is an information war on in Thailand. Beyond the martial law and the coup d'etat that the military had declared, there is censorship. The military shut down cable, radio stations, and some TV stations and instructed those on social media to be
very careful -- all before declaring a coup.
So little is being reported in Thailand these days when it comes to political news. Army Chief Prayuth Chan-Ocha demanded public TV channels only show news from military-approved
sources. Re-runs of military announcements are what many Thais are seeing on their TVs, day after day. The lack of news is frightening at a time when people are hungry for news. While most Thais are used to curfew -- there have been so many in
this past decade alone -- having some sense of what is happening in their country could help ease the minds of Thais who have been ordered to stay at home. And they have a right to know what is happening in their country.
martial law is normally accompanied by restrictions on speech and media freedom, the military was very cautious this time around. Unlike the last coup in 2006, the men in uniform made strong and explicit statements to both the traditional and new media
producers and consumers to be careful how they behave. Media and ISP executives were summoned to meetings and warned repeatedly over social media to avoid improper conduct.
Of the 19 official statements made by the
newly-formed National Peace and Order Maintaining Council, six specifically target the flow of information and news. The military says that it must control TV, radio stations and the Internet as a way to ensure that truthful and correct information is disseminated to the population. The Council is reportedly most worried about social media communication, where they have the least direct control and they have openly expressed concern that non-censored information flows could pose further challenges to the military rule and the state on the whole.
One statement from the Council demands that Internet service providers monitor online networks and rub out information that could breed disorder in the country. The statement reads:
In order to
disseminate proper Internet news to the population -- void of manipulation that could create misunderstanding or conflict@Internet providers must:
monitor and stop any information dissemination that could breed disorder within the Kingdom or would negatively impact the stability of the state and the morale of the people
be summoned for a meeting
at the Office of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission.
What is the military afraid of? Much anxiety is being driven by the threat of propaganda to elicit violence by ill-intent individuals. The military believes there are underground groups in Thailand determined to wreak
havoc on the country. They worry that unless they control and centralize the dissemination of information, they will not win this battle. It's not just the battle between the Shinawatra and the Rest, but rather between the state and its subversives.
Since martial law was imposed, security forces have begun arresting individuals suspected of subversive behavior and turned up reportedly military-grade weapons. Some of these were believed to have belonged to individuals with
ties to the warring protest movements.
Is the military takeover of the media warranted? The coup in 2006, while the military imposed certain restrictions on media freedom, it did not result in this level of information lockdown.
Many of the commercial TV channels in Thailand were hardly political: they mostly showed soap operas, game shows and music videos. Perhaps the near ban on media is meant to function as a sweeping act of fear-mongering. Or perhaps the military believes it
will help suppress the voices of its opposition.
It was 3 a.m. in Thailand. Presumably barely anyone was watching.
But the country's military chief chose that hour to appear on army-run Channel 5 television Tuesday to declare martial law across the country.
This is not a coup, said
Gen. Prayuth Chan-Ocha, hours before the nation's people woke to the new public order; with soldiers stationed at intersections and tanks on the streets.
The army says it has taken control to ensure law and order in a country split by deep
political divisions, two weeks after the country's Constitutional Court removed caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra from government.
Update: This is a Coup
22nd May 2014. From ThaiVisa.com
Thailand's army chief announced in a televised address to the nation on Thursday that the armed forces were seizing power. Army chief Prayut Chan-O-Cha said:
In order for the country to return to normal quickly, the National Peace Keeping Committee comprised of the army, the Thai armed forces, the Royal Air Force and the police need to seize power as of May 22 at 4.30 pm,
The move came after military-hosted talks between the kingdom's political rivals apparently failed to reach a compromise on ending nearly seven months of mass protests on the streets of Bangkok. Rival protest leaders at the talks --
held at a heavily guarded military facility in the capital -- were seen being taken away by the army although it was unclear whether they had been formally detained.
The army has announced a curfew across Thailand whereby everybody must stay in
their homes from 10pm until 5am.
It is also seems that all land borders are closed to all foreigners.
Update: Afternoon opening
23rd May 2014.
Well most GoGos seem to be trying for afternoon opening but
the word is that already late night opening will be tolerated with lights being turned out.
Of course this does not quite answer the important question of what trouble farangs will get in if they spotted by police going home at 1am.
are being allowed to travel to and from airports in the curfew hours if they show their tickets to prove the reason. Taxi drivers can get permits for the same purpose.
Martial law chief Prayuth Chan-ocha ordered print media and TV operators from carrying interviews with anyone who might confuse society or provoke violence .
He targeted interviews with former government officials, and warned anyone violating
the martial law order would be prosecuted and shut down. The constitution and the press law forbid shutting down media, but Gen Prayuth did not explain how he would justify doing that.
Gen Prayuth, who now doubles as army commander and director of
the 'Peace and Order' Maintaining Command (POMC), issued the order. It targets owners of print media and television programmes, programme hosts and journalists , and says they must not let academics, former government officials, former judiciary
officials or independent organisations to express opinions that could worsen conflict, distort information, confuse society [or] lead to violence .
In the same censorship order, Gen Prayuth also instructed officials of the Interior Ministry
and the police to take action to end any demonstration criticising the martial law regime and the POMC
In other orders, Gen Prayuth indefinitely suspended the broadcasting of 14 satellite TV stations known to support political factions such as the
red shirts, yellow shirts and People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), including the highly interactive Voice TV station. The networks that have been shut down are ASTV, MV5, DNN, Asia Update, Bluesky, UDD, P&P, FourChannel, MFTV and Tnews.
China has banned the release of biblical epic Noah starring Russell Crowe.
Paramount Pictures tried to secure a release slot but getting the Bible-based story past China's cinematic censors was stymied due to Beijing's sensitivities on
religious issues. A source told the Hollywood Reporter:
This was for religious reasons, though it seems the whole issue was quite complicated.
The LA Times cited a source who suggested Noah may also
have been refused a Chinese release for commercial reasons due to proximity with several other Hollywood releases.
The novel Perempuan Nan Bercinta by renowned local author Faisal Tehrani was launched with much fanfare in 2012 by Malaysia's Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak. At the book launch the PM made a point of saying that novelists have the freedom
to write in the country.
But it has now been banned by the Home Ministry last week, for purportedly promoting Shia teachings. Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi claimed the book was likely to be prejudicial to public order .
was published by Institut Terjemahan dan Buku Malaysia (ITBM), and printed by Percetakan Nasional Malaysia Berhad, both government-linked companies.
Faisal told The Malaysian Insider that he was not sure why the ministry had decided to ban his
novel now, but noted:
I did hear then that Jakim (Islamic Development Department of Malaysia) was investigating complaints that it has Shia-related content.
The novel, like most of Faisal's writing,
champions the rights of the oppressed. The story is about a professor who becomes friends with a human rights activist and they both debate and have discussions on various issues. And the professor's views are non-mainstream Islamic views, which could
have sparked the investigation by Jakim.
Foreign companies will soon be able to produce and sell game consoles in China , although they do have to work with a local partner and operate out of the Shanghai Free Trade Zone.
All games will have to be approved by the "culture department
in charge" . Happily, this refers to the local Shanghai government culture department, not the probably-more-strict national Ministry of Culture.
Games that are not approved will be returned with the reason for their rejection clearly stated.
That certainly suggests that rejected games may be easy to fix and resubmit. Content that won't be allowed in games includes:
Gambling-related content or game features
Anything that violates China's constitution
Anything that threatens China's national unity, sovereignty, or territorial integrity.
Anything that harms the nation's reputation,
security, or interests.
Anything that instigates racial/ethnic hatred, or harms ethnic traditions and cultures.
Anything that violates China's policy on religion by promoting cults or superstitions.
Anything that promotes or
incites obscenity, drug use, violence, or gambling.
Anything that harms public ethics or China's culture and traditions.
Anything that insults, slanders, or violates the rights of others.
Other content that violates the law
Obviously, many of these can be interpreted broadly or very selectively, but there's reason to hope that the Shanghai local government will take a less broad approach than the Ministry of Culture might have. However, it seems highly unlikely that the
likes of Grand Theft Auto will be available any time soon.
On April 11, several Myanmar newspapers and journals blacked-out their front pages to protest the jailing of journalists by the national government.
The Myanmar Journalist Network says five journalists are currently detained in Myanmar, despite the
government's commitment to further expand media freedom in the country.
The protest was organized right after a multimedia reporter for the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB), an independent online publication, was sentenced by a local court to one
year in prison for trespassing on government property and disrupting the work of a government official. The case involved Zaw Pe, a reporter covering a Japanese-funded scholarship program in 2012. He was accused of trespassing after attempting to visit
and take footage at an office of the national Department of Education in central Myanmar during office hours.
In an interview with Irawaddy.com, DVB bureau chief Toe Zaw Latt called the sentence outrageous :
He was taking the video recording during office hours. It's outrageous that he is being sentenced for trespassing...We have to question the degree of press freedom in the country.
These are not good signs for
press freedom, if journalists have to face a lawsuit for covering news during office hours. We are worried that these actions might be a sign of restrictions in press freedom again, as it was in the past.
Noah is a 2014 USA adventure drama by Darren Aronofsky. With Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly and Anthony Hopkins.
A home ministry official has confirmed that Noah will not be screened in Malaysia. Abdul Halim Abdul Hamid,
chairman of the home ministry's Film Censorship Board, said the decision to ban the film was made about two weeks ago. He said:
Yes, I can confirm that it has been banned by the board, the movie can cause quite a lot
of anger and distress if it is shown in Malaysia.
Abdul Halim said the main reason for the ban was the portrayal of Noah by Crowe, since Islam forbids visual depictions of any prophet.
The notion that the formerly mighty American publisher Reader's Digest would allow the Chinese Communist party to censor its novels would once have appeared so outrageous as to be unimaginable. In the globalised world, what was once unimaginable is
becoming commonplace, however. The Australian novelist LA (Louisa) Larkin has learned the hard way that old certainties no longer apply as the globalisation of trade leads to the globalisation of authoritarian power.
Larkin published Thirst in 2012.
She set her thriller in an Antarctic research station, where mercenaries besiege a team of scientists. China is not a major theme of a novel set in Antarctica. But Larkin needed a back story for her Wendy Woo character who was linked with the villains of
her drama. So she wrote that Chinese authorities arrested and tortures Woo's mother for being a member of the banned religious group Falun Gong.
Larkin was delighted when Reader's Digest said it would take her work for one of its anthologies of
condensed novels. Thirst would reach a worldwide audience in the English edition for the Indian subcontinent, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and Singapore.
But the publishers had outsourced its printing to China. The printing firm noticed
the heretical passages in Larkin's novel. All references to Falun Gong had to go, it said, as did all references to agents of the Chinese state engaging in torture. They demanded censorship, even though the book was not set for distribution in China.
Phil Patterson from Larkin's London agents, Marjacq Scripts, tried to explain the basics for a free society to Reader's Digest . To allow China to engage in extraterritorial censorship of an Australian novelist writing for an American publisher
would set a very dangerous precedent , he told its editors. Larkin told me she would have found it unconscionable to change her book to please a dictatorship. When she made the same point to Reader's Digest, it replied that if it insisted on
defending freedom of publication, it would have to move the printing from China to Hong Kong at a cost of US$30,000.
Reader's Digest decided last week to accept the ban and scrap the book.