Decree shuts down red media and those deemed sympathetic
Red-shirt media and those identified as sympathetic to red-shirt protesters suffered heavy censorship yesterday as the government exercised its power under the emergency decree to cut communication lines among the red shirts, leaving society with only what the state views as correct and appropriate.
It was a bid to reduce the crowd - but it invited more red shirts to the main protest venue at Rajprasong intersection and elsewhere.
Leaders of the red-shirt Democratic Alliance against Dictatorship issued an ultimatum for the government to return the People Channel (PTV) back on air by yesterday evening or else face drastic measures, but to no avail.
The red-shirts' People Channel went off the air before noon, and red-shirt community radio had their signals jammed and their relay voice signal from the main rally stage at Rajprasong intersection cut off. A number of red-shirt websites, as well as prachatai.com online newspaper, regarded as pro-red by the government, went dark before noon.
First to go offline was Thai Red News SMS news service for mobile phones, which, soon after the emergency decree was declared at 6pm on Wednesday, sent a final text message stating it has been "ordered" by the government to cease its service. Somehow, the service had resumed intermittently by yesterday morning.
Samut Prakan-based red-shirt community radio FM97.25 was heavily jammed for days and by yesterday morning, its voice broadcast from the main stage was cut.
At 10.36am, the station announced that PTV was off-air and they could not relay speech from the main protest stage any longer. "Go to Rajprasong now! Get in a car, a bus or whatever. The screen has gone black."
At the main stage, various red-shirt leaders took turn denouncing the censorship.
Some called red-shirts to bring evidence of censorship and show it to the international media at the nearby Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand.
Elsewhere, at the prachatai.com office, staff were frantically trying to unlock the Website, which had gone black but nobody dared enter its office near Ratchadaphisek Road for fear of arrest.
"We can't accept this," said editor Chuwat Rerksirisuk yesterday afternoon. "This has never happened, not even during the [September 2006] coup. But it's now happening under an 'elected' government."
Chuwat warned that instead of ensuring diversity of views, the government had chosen to shut out differing views.
"We had numerous lessons in the past, during October  or May " when dissenting media were shut and it backfired on the state and made the crowd more angry."
He said his ten-member staff was trying to put out news and commentary content as usual, but through Facebook, blogs and other media. They are also working hard on a back-up plan to restore the site in defiance of the Emergency Decree.
"I insist we are not red-shirt media but so far the red-shirt movement has been portrayed by mainstream media as dangerous. So we try to balance things out," Chuwat said.
Late yesterday afternoon, Thai netizen group, an online-media freedom advocate, was holding an emergency meeting. Supinya Klangnarong, coordinator of the group told The Nation that she thought the government was committing a mistake.
"We oppose [the move] to censor internet-based media. It's a mistake for the government to think that this will bring about peace."