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Thailand: Call for moratorium on prosecutions for criticising the King, dialogue on Internet freedom

April 29, 2009

Twenty-six IFEX members and other organisations urge government to amend lese majeste law

Reporters Without Borders and 31 other organisations urge Thai government to amend lese majeste law.

"I posted a video of the king on the Internet," Suwicha Thakor told Reporters Without Borders from behind a plexiglass screen in Bangkok's Klong Prem prison on 20 April. "The police should have told me what I was doing was wrong. It is not right to be sentenced to 10 years in prison for this. I am not a problem for the country or its security. I am in prison for nothing."

Suwicha was given the 10-year sentence on 3 April on a charge of lese majeste. Reporters Without Borders wrote to the king yesterday asking him to grant Suwicha a royal pardon.

Reporters Without Borders and 31 other human rights, press freedom and journalists' organisations have issued a joint appeal to the Thai government for a revision of article 112 of the Thai criminal code on lese majeste.

Since a new government took over last December, the authorities have stepped up enforcement of the lese majeste law and the Internet has been one of the leading victims. Access to more than 50,000 websites is currently blocked because of content critical of the monarchy. Around ten people are being prosecuted (or have been prosecuted) for lese majeste and two of them have been convicted. The crime of lese majeste is punishable by three to 15 years in prison.

In their appeal, Reporters Without Borders and the other organisations say: "We see the current trend of multiple prosecutions for the same offences intended to stifle commentary, opinion and dissent." The lese majeste law had not been used since 1991. Now not a day goes by without the People's Alliance for Democracy, a member of the ruling coalition, trying to silence criticism in the name of respect for the king.

The appeal urges the authorities to "work with local free speech organisations for a moratorium on lese majeste prosecution so that a constructive dialogue can begin on the issue of Internet freedom."

List of signatories:

Adil Soz, International Foundation for Protection of Freedom of Speech, Kazakhstan
Algerian Centre for the Defence and Promotion of Press Freedom (CALP), Algeria
Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), Egypt
ARTICLE 19, United Kingdom and International
Asian Human Rights Commission, Hong Kong
Associação Brasileira de Jornalismo Investigativo (ABRAJI), Brazil
Association of Independent Electronic Media (ANEM),Serbia
Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR)
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE)
Cartoonists Rights Network, International (CRNI), U.S.A.
Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR), The Philippines
Center for Media Studies and Peace Building (CEMESP), Liberia
Committee to Protect Bloggers (CPB), USA
Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), USA
Doha Center for Media Freedom, Qatar
Electronic Frontiers Foundation (EFF), USA
Freedom Against Censorship in Thailand (FACT), Thailand
Freedom House, USA and International
Global Voices, International
Independent Journalism Center (IJC), Moldova
International Federation of Journalists Asia-Pacific (IFJ), Australia
International Press Institute (IPI), Austria
Instituto Prensa y Sociedad (IPYS)
Initiative for Freedom of Expression (Antenna -TR), Turkey
Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA), Australia
Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), Ghana
Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), Namibia
Media Rights Agenda (MRA), Nigeria
Reporters sans frontières (RSF), France
Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA), Bangkok
World Association of Newspapers (WAN), France
World Press Freedom Committee (WPFC), U.S.A.

Giles Ji Ungpakorn, one of the lasts victims of the lese-majeste crime, is also joining the appeal.

For more information contact:
Clothilde Le Coz
Reporters without Borders
Phone: +33 1 44 83 84 71

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