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Government blocks satellite TV channel, online news site following declaration of state of emergency

(SEAPA/IFEX) - 8 April 2010 - The Thai government blocked the broadcasts of an opposition satellite TV channel and an independent online news portal a day after a state of emergency was declared in Bangkok and nearby provinces.

The "Bangkok Post" said Prime Minister's Office Minister Sathit Wongnongtoey announced on the morning of 8 April that the government's Center for Public Administration in Emergency Situations had successfully blocked all the signals of the People's Channel, which is operated by the pro-Thaksin United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD).

Sathit added that there had been progress in the government's efforts to "ban the spread of disinformation intended to incite violations of the law."

Meanwhile, independent online news portal http://prachatai.com/ was also blocked by order of Deputy PM Suthep Thaugsuban. In addition to Prachatai.com, 35 other sites, mostly pro-Red Shirt political websites, were also ordered shut down. According to Prachatai.com executive director Chiranuch Premchaiporn, INet, the company that hosts the site, confirmed to her that it had received a court order to close down the website.

Chiranuch was charged on 31 March with 10 counts of violating the Computer-Related Crimes Act case law. She was accused of failing to immediately remove from the site's discussion board comments that authorities deemed insulting to the monarchy.

The site's URL now redirects users to another link with a message saying the website "has been blocked by a Court order" and that it "could have an effect on or be against the security of the Kingdom, public order or good morals".

In his speech on 7 April, PM Abhisit Vejjajiva said that Bangkok and several outlying provinces had been placed under a state of emergency to better control the situation in the capital. "The government has tried its best to enforce the law, but violations of the law have increased," he said. Earlier that day, legislators were forced to flee the Parliament building either on foot or by a helicopter after Red Shirt protesters stormed the government building's compound.

The state of emergency gives the government more sweeping powers than the Internal Security Act, under which Bangkok had been placed ever since the UDD or Red Shirts began their protest rallies in the capital.

According to a report by the Associated Press, the state of emergency "allows the military to restore order and allows the government to impose curfews, ban public gatherings of more than five people, censor and ban media from disseminating news that 'causes panic.' It also allows security officials to detain suspects without charge for up to 30 days."

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