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Jiew-outside-courtJiew outside court after resumption of trial

Thailand: Trial resumes of journalist accused of 'Damaging the image of the Royal Court'

Source: Reporters without Borders

Trial of Chiranuch Premchaiporn (aka Jiew), the head of the news website Prachatai, has resumed. She is charged under articles 14 and 15 of the Computer Crimes Act.

Facing 20 years in prison

Chiranuch is facing a possible 20-year jail sentence for 10 comments damaging to the “royal court’s image” which were posted on her site from April to October 2010 and which, according to prosecutors, were not withdrawn quickly enough. Each comment could potentially result in a five-year sentence, but the overall maximum is 20 years. Chiranuch’s lawyers insist that she cooperated with the authorities and deleted the offending comments as soon as possible.

Two police officers are due to testify for the prosecution when the trial resumes today before a Bangkok court after a six-month break. More prosecution witnesses are due to be heard on 2, 6, 7, 8, 9, 20 and 21 September. Witnesses for the defence will testify on 11, 12, 13 and 14 October.

September 1st, interview 

“Chiranuch is the victim of arbitrary use of draconian laws, namely the Computer Crimes Act and Section 112 of the criminal code, on lèse-majesté,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The new prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, and her government must prevent freedom of expression being curbed under the pretext of protecting the king’s image. We are waiting for a sign of a real political will to reform these repressive laws.

“We take note of Judge Kampot Rungrat’s pledge to use purely technical and legal criteria when trying this case, namely whether or not Chiranuch contributed to the comments posted on the site and whether or not she deliberately waited before deleting them. We urge the authorities to drop the charges against her without delay.”

The number of lèse-majesté complaints brought before Thai courts (often combined with charges under the Computer Crimes Act) has been growing steadily for years. Reporters Without Borders deplores the way this charge worthy of bygone age is used arbitrarily for political ends and points out that Prime Minister Yingluck has herself criticized “inappropriate” use of the lèse-majesté law.

Chiranuch was arrested on 31 March 2010 in connection with another lèse-majesté complaint which, if it leads to prosecution, could potentially result in second sentence of up to 50 years in prison.

All the lèse-majesté charges that have been brought against Thai journalists, bloggers and ordinary members of the public constitute serious violations of the fundamental right to media freedom and free expression.