Thailand: A journalist faces criminal charges for comments posted on her website
Paris-Bangkok, 27 September 2010 - On Friday, September 24, 2010, at approximately 2.30PM, the Thai immigration police arrested Ms. Chiranuch Premchaiporn, executive director of Prachatai, an independent news website, at the Bangkok Airport on charges of defaming the monarchy of Thailand and of violating articles 14 and 15 of the 2007 Computer-related Crimes Act and article 112 of the criminal code. Ms. Premchaiporn was returning from Hungary, where she had attended a conference entitled The Internet at Liberty 2010.
The arrest warrant was reportedly issued by the Khon Kaen Provincial Court and the charges brought against her were filed by a resident of Khon Kaen on 11 August 2008, relating to materials posted on the Prachatai website which the warrant claims endanger national security. She was taken in a police car after her arrest and was driven to Khon Kaen, in northeastern Thailand. She was released on Saturday, September 25, 2010, after posting bail of 200,000 baht (4830 euro). Ms. Premchaiporn is awaiting trial over similar charges, which were brought against her in March, at which time she was arrested and released on bail.
The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the Union for Civil Liberty (UCL) condemn her arrest and the use of restrictive legislation in order to silence critics of the current government's policies, in violation of the right to freedom of expression. Both organisations have observed an increasingly repressive trend of censorship in Thailand and the misuse of the Computer-related Crimes Act, the Lèse-majesté law as well as the Emergency Decree currently being enforced in seven provinces, to severely restrict freedom of expression and the media on vague grounds of protecting ‘national security”. The sweeping restriction has resulted in the shutting down, blockage and censorship of reportedly as many as 40,000 websites, including the Prachatai website(1).
The Thai authorities’ widespread censorship and use of legal actions against journalists have gone beyond the reasonable restrictions permissible under international law and are in contravention of Thailand's obligations under human rights treaties to which it is a State Party.
FIDH and UCL call on the Thai authorities to drop all charges against Ms. Chiranuch Premchaiporn, and to make sure that the Thai legislation is never used as a political tool to silence members of the opposition, intellectuals and journalists who disagree with government policies. The organisations also call upon the government to invite the United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression to Thailand; the Rapporteur's 2004 request to carry out a visit to the country has remained unanswered.