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Thai media restrictions raise freedom of expression concerns – CTV News

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BANGKOK —
Thailand implemented new regulations on Friday that appeared to broaden the government’s ability to restrict media reports and social media posts about the coronavirus pandemic, raising immediate concerns that authorities will seek to stifle criticism.

While Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha has long sought to crack down on what he calls fake news and has a government department devoted to it, the new regulations, announced late Thursday, include the ability to prosecute people for distributing “news that may cause public fear.”

It also gives Thai regulators the ability to force internet service providers to turn over the IP address of the person or entity distributing such news, and to “suspend the internet service to that IP address immediately.”

In a joint statement sent by six Thai journalist associations to Prayuth and published by multiple Thai media outlets, the groups urged him to cancel the restrictions, saying they were overly broad and an attack on freedom of expression.

“The clause `news that may cause public fear’ allows authorities to proceed with legal action against the media and the public without clear criteria,” they wrote, threatening to take legal action if necessary.

“Even if the public or media share factual information, state agencies may use this clause as grounds to file a complaint or threaten them.”

The new measures come as Thailand is struggling to cope with a new wave of the coronavirus pandemic fueled by the Delta variant, with rising numbers of cases and deaths. On Friday another 17,345 cases and 117 deaths were reported.

In announcing the restrictions, the prime minister said they were necessary to combat the spread of inaccurate rumors that could impede government efforts to vaccinate the population and implement measures to slow the pandemic.

“We have daily briefings to give the right information to the public,” Prayuth said. “But some try to distort the information and cause confusion.”

The announcement immediately raised fears that the measures could be used by authorities to stifle legitimate criticism and could also have a chilling effect by making it less likely that people would publicly question the government’s actions.

“Even if Thai people share legitimate information, even second hand, the government could still determine that the information, while factual, could cause a panic,” Mark Cogan, a professor at Japan’s Kansai Gaidai University, wrote Friday in an opinion piece in the Thai Enquirer online newspaper. “The government has almost accomplished what it has long set out to achieve. It’s a giant step closer to being sole arbiter of what is true and what is fake.”

Government spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri downplayed the concerns, saying that the order would not be “enforced in such a way to limit the media or people’s freedom of speech.”

“The government is rather trying to manage fake news or any criticism based on false information to prevent misunderstanding and hatred in the public,” he said.

  Asked whether factual reports that have the potential to create fear could be affected, he said that “if the news is reported appropriately, there should not be a problem.”

In a discussion on Facebook, prominent Thai journalist Suthichai Yoon suggested Prayuth was reacting to growing dissatisfaction with his government’s response to the coronavirus crisis and was looking for a scapegoat.

“The government is stumbling, and feels that the reports presenting the facts to the public from the media, the mainstream media, are questioning whether the government can handle the COVID crisis, and whether the government should be changed or the prime minister replaced,” he said.

“The media is the easy scapegoat.”

Asked about the new measures at a news conference Friday, the top U.S. diplomat in Thailand, U.S. Embassy Charge d’Affaires Michael Heath, did not comment specifically, but emphasized that “the United States always supports freedom of expression.”

“That expression sometimes will include criticism of the government,” he said. “As you’ve seen in my own country, we tolerate a wide range of criticism of our government — some of it’s justified and some of it’s not — but we will always support the right for people to express their opinions.”

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Media availability following Council meeting – ottawa.ca

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Mayor Jim Watson, Councillor Keith Egli, Chair, Ottawa Board of Health, Steve Kanellakos, City Manager, Anthony Di Monte, General Manager, Emergency and Protective Services, and Dr. Vera Etches, Medical Officer of Health, will respond to media questions after today’s Council Meeting.

Residents will be able to watch the media availability on the City’s YouTube channel, rogerstv.com or RogersTV Cable 22.

When: Wednesday, September 22

Time: 15 minutes after Council adjourns

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Canada denies Chinese state media report that sailor was stopped in Northwest Passage – Nunatsiaq News

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Zhai Mo is attempting to circumnavigate Arctic Ocean


A view from the sailboat of Zhai Mo, who is trying to sail around the Arctic. Transport Canada recently warned the Chinese sailor that foreign boats are prohibited from travelling through the Northwest Passage for pleasure or recreational purposes, due to COVID-19 concerns. (Screenshot courtesy of China Global Television Network)

By

David Lochead

Chinese state media is reporting the Canadian government stopped a Chinese sailor attempting to circumnavigate the Arctic Ocean last week, but Transport Canada says no such thing happened.

“Captain Zhai Mo has not entered Canadian Arctic waters,” Transport Canada stated in an email to Nunatsiaq News on Sept. 17.

Chinese media claim Mo was stopped at Lancaster Sound, in the Northwest Passage.

Mo, along with two crew members, is sailing a 25-metre boat that is fully solar powered and sponsored by Chinese telecom corporation China Mobile.

He is well known in China for his quest to sail non-stop around the Arctic Ocean and his travels are being closely covered by Chinese state media. Mo claims his journey, which he is video-blogging, will be the first of its kind.

Transport Canada told Nunatsiaq News it emailed Mo to relay that foreign boats going through the country’s waters for recreation or pleasure are temporarily prohibited due to COVID-19.

Transport Canada added it had seen reports that Mo now plans to avoid Canadian waters and the department “is monitoring the situation.”

According to Chinese state media, Mo is scheduled to return to China by the end of the year.

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Gabby Petito’s Disappearance And Clues Debated On Social Media – Forbes

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On Monday, a body thought to be that of missing Gabrielle “Gabby” Petito was discovered, while authorities are still searching for her fiancé Brian Laundrie. The 22-year-old was reported missing on Sept. 11 after she failed to return from a months-long cross-country trip with Laundrie, who as of Tuesday afternoon – when he was named a person of interest – remains missing.

The case has remained in the spotlight on cable news over the past week while there have been nightly segments on the national evening news. “Gabby Petito” has also been trending on social media this week, but some users have even questioned why her disappearance has garnered so much media scrutiny while other cases fail to gain any attention.

Missing White Woman Syndrome

While Petito’s disappearance and possible death should not be taken lightly, many on the social platforms have noted that the media attention is an example of what has been labeled “Missing White Woman Syndrome.” The term is used by social scientists and media commentators to refer to the alleged disproportionate media coverage, especially on TV, of a missing person case that involves a young, white, upper-middle-class woman compared to the relative lack attention towards missing women who are not white and women of lower social classes, as well as missing men or boys.

Jennifer Bendery (@jbendery) of the Huffington Post tweeted, “In the same area that Gabby Petito disappeared, 710 indigenous people— mostly girls—disappeared between the years of 2011 and 2020 but their stories didn’t lead news cycles.” via @MollyJongFast”

Some on social media have also used Gabby Petito’s disappearance to highlight other missing person’s cases. The grass roots organization Occupy Democrats (@OccupyDemocrats) posted, “BREAKING NEWS: While the media obsesses over the Gabby Petito story, Jelani Day, a Black aspiring doctor and Illinois medical school student is also missing, but his disappearance is barely being covered. His abandoned car was found in the woods. Please RT to make this go viral.”

“I’m very sad and angry. Gabby could have been saved. Some are highlighting the media responses. It doesn’t diminish Gabby’s case. It’s an attempt to make sure we search for them all. Still, so many women missing. Use the same outrage to find them all,” added social media user @tbkeith.

Even with those calls to find every missing woman, this case certainly highlights yet another divide in our nation, and it further puts social media in the spotlight for its ability to get people arguing about nearly everything.

“Social media continues to have that potential to be polarizing,” said Saif Shahin, assistant professor in the school of communication at the American University.

“We see this all the time in the political space between liberals and conservatives, but it is evident on social media in different contexts such as this one,” Shahin added.

It also seems that this case has taken social media by storm unlike others, and that could potentially help break the case.

“When you combine that with America’s fascination with true crime – Serial Podcast, Don’t F**k With Cats and the latest Kristin Smart case – this is a perfect storm for the story to go viral,” said Matt Zuvella, VP of marketing at talent management services company FamePick.

“In the case of Gabby, her social media profiles might actually help solve the case, mainly because her fans became accustomed to her style of posting,” noted Zuvella. “So when there is something off or different, her fans immediately took notice and started asking questions.”

Spread Of Misinformation During Investigations

At issue too is where there is a potential for the spread of misinformation that could impact cases such as this one. How much harm it can do is a matter of debate, but past cases have shown that wild theories can stir up individuals and even put some people in harm’s way.

“Over the last few years, we have seen the dark side of social media with the spread of Covid-19 misinformation and political/election agendas,” added Zuvella. “However, in Gabby’s case we can see social media’s positive impact since her fans and fellow influencers jumped to her ‘aide’ and tried to help in any way they could.”

However, in past cases, social media has caused more harm than good, and amateur sleuths ‘debating’ potential suspects during an ongoing investigation could present serious problems.

“This happened after the Boston bombing,” explained Shahin. “There was the sharing of information on Reddit and Twitter, and other platforms. Users on social media were actively trying to figure out who were the Boston bombers.”

And they did so without the knowledge the police and FBI had access to, and as Shahin added, that was a problem as there was a zealous audience seeking information and sharing details without context. Many didn’t have investigative training either.

“They were pointing fingers everywhere,” said Shahin. “That certainly targeted people of color, and some on social media pointed fingers at a young man from India who had gone missing.”

Sunil Tripathi was wrongly accused of being a Boston Bombing suspect on Reddit, as he had been missing for a month prior to the April 15, 2013 bombing. His family had even turned to social media to assist in their search for Tripathi. That included setting up a Facebook page and sharing a video on YouTube.

Instead of helping find Tripathi, the information posted online resulted in his being misidentified as a suspect by users on social media. Thousands of individuals actually jumped on the bandwagon, and his name and details were even shared on Reddit. A BuzzFeed reporter then named the young man, who was born to Indian immigrants, as being a primary suspect.

“That led to threats against his family, while some mainstream media outlets even picked up on the story,” said Shahin. “The family was already in a lot of pain and it exacerbated it.”

In the end, Tripathi had nothing to do with the bombing, and he had killed himself by drowning.

“There is such a potential for the spread of bad information, and that could even distract the police during an investigation,” warned Shahin. “This isn’t new, but the presence of social media brings in such new dynamics.”

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