Thailand lifts YouTube whole-site ban, censorship continues

September 1, 2007

[SEAPA comments: “The Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA) itself questions the implications of reports that Google and YouTube are in effect to colluding with the Thai government to censor a popular global platform. While the agreement may remove genuinely reprehensible material from YouTube in the immediate term, SEAPA said any such collusion between Google and the Thai government could potentially be open for abuse and wide-reaching interpretations, and thereby only exacerbate concerns over free speech over the Internet. SEAPA added that the cooperation between Google/YouTube and the Thai government could conceivably become a template sought by other governments that have had run-ins with sensitive content on the video sharing site.” ]

Thailand lifts five-month YouTube ban
by Anusak Konglang August 31, 2007

BANGKOK (AFP) – Thailand has lifted its ban on the popular video-sharing site YouTube, after filters were installed to stop viewers here seeing clips deemed offensive to the king, a minister said Friday.

The ban was imposed five months ago after an anonymous user posted a clip showing digitally-altered images of revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej next to a photograph of feet.

Thais believe feet are the lowest and dirtiest part of the body, and avoid ever showing their soles in public. Placing feet next to someone’s head is seen as a massive insult.

The number of clips lampooning the 79-year-old king mushroomed after news spread around the world that Thailand had banned the popular site, sparking an international debate over free speech on the Internet.

Sitthichai Pookaiyaudoom, the minister for information and communication technology, said the ban had been lifted Thursday after YouTube installed the filters to prevent Thai users viewing the clips of the king.

“It was lifted after YouTube managed to find filter technology to screen out clips we do not want,” Sitthichai told AFP.

“In fact we told YouTube many months ago what we wanted, but they were only just now able to do that,” he said.

Thailand had announced in May that it had reached an agreement with YouTube but it has taken several months to resolve the content dispute.

The Nation newspaper reported Friday that YouTube, owned by Internet giant Google, had decided not to remove the clips entirely in order to respect users’ freedom of speech.

But the paper said the company had agreed to filter the offensive clips in Thailand by preventing Thai Internet service providers from accessing them.

The US-based company could not immediately be reached for comment.

Thailand’s king, almost universally adored in his country, is the world’s longest-reigning monarch and one of the few still protected by tough laws that prohibit any insult against the royal family.

At one point in the feud with YouTube, Thailand’s army-backed government, which came to power after a coup in September last year, had threatened to charge the company with lese majeste — the crime of offending a monarch.

In late March, a Thai court jailed a Swiss man for 10 years for insulting the monarch by vandalising his portraits.

The king later pardoned the man, who was then deported from Thailand.

Media rights advocate Supinya Klangnarong said the lifting of the ban was only a limited victory for free speech in Thailand.

“It’s supposed to be good news, but it’s not good news. Even though the ban on YouTube was lifted, it came with conditions,” she said.

“Freedom of expression will be still limited.”

Thailand continues to block hundreds of websites — mainly pornography — but also those that are critical of the king.

Ousted Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra was widely condemned for his heavy-handed tactics in dealing with the media, but critics say respect for free speech — especially on the Internet — has worsened since the military seized power in last year’s coup.

New York-based Human Rights Watch said in May that Thailand was stifling free political debate by shutting down political websites and moving to silence online critics.

Under a new cyber-crime law approved in July by the military-installed parliament, police will be able to seize computers from homes and businesses, which authorities say is meant to help crack down on Internet pornography.

source: Yahoo! News, Thailand lifts five-month YouTube ban, August 31, 2007

2 Responses to “Thailand lifts YouTube whole-site ban, censorship continues”

  1. K. D. Says:

    well…still “restrictions”… they still have the “rights” of telling(forcing) us what to watch and what not…i will not appreciate anything until everything..and i mean every website is accessible…because since the beginning…we have the right of accessing everything…its just been their thinking of what to block/unblock…unblock just YouTube doesn’t make them look more “civilized”

  2. ThaiObserver Says:

    Hmmm. So again, Sittichai, who has n electoral mandate, decide what the Thai people want. How very clever of him – he didnt even have to ask.


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