At 10:30am local time this morning, representatives of Thailand’s internet service providers were summoned to meet with the leaders of the military coup, which came into effect yesterday. It’s part of a day of meetings organized by the military junta, which has dubbed itself the National Peace and Order Maintaining Council, that includes discussions with Thailand’s ousted prime minister.
The meeting with internet service providers (ISPs) is likely to discuss the directives given to Thailand’s National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) yesterday, when the country was under martial law but before a bloodless coup was declared. Those directives instruct ISPs to block sites containing content related to the coup that is deemed inappropriate – though it’s unclear what that means or how it will be carried out in practice. Yesterday, six sites were blocked, and the NBTC made it clear that social media like Twitter, Facebook, and Line will be monitored closely.
“Not censorship” – but people are worried about freedom of speech
An NBTC representative said yesterday that this does not constitute censorship of the web. However, there are fears among Thailand’s web users that the junta’s interference with television – all free-to-air and cable TV channels were taken down last night, including CNN and BBC, and replaced by one military channel – could extend to the internet.
Seems all the free-to-air channels are going to show for now is Prayuth's announcement on loop. Showing again now. pic.twitter.com/4Xv2yh9957
— Thin (@thinink) May 22, 2014
Shortly after the forced broadcast TV shutdown last night, ThaiPBS continued with a live YouTube stream of their TV news. But as seen in this video (hat-tip to Coconuts Bangkok for spotting it), a pair of soldiers went into the ThaiPBS newsroom to get the livestream taken offline.
The coup has drawn international condemnation and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called for peace, dialogue, and a return to democratic rule.