Dear President Obama: We are pleased that you will begin your second term as U.S. president with a trip to Southeast Asia. As you visit Burma, Cambodia, and Thailand from November 17 through 20 while attending the 21st Association of Southeast Asian Nations Summit and related meetings in Phnom Penh, we hope that your commitment to human rights and the fundamental right to free expression remains an important aspect of your agenda.
At online discussion sites all over the world, comments are posted on the Web as soon as they are written. People argue, inform, express anger, and voice fears. Some say things in the heat of the moment that they might go on to regret. Others are elliptical and obscure. The enabling of such conversations is an important modern method of discovering and re-telling the news, and encourages previously uninvolved readers of the news to help gather and disseminate it--especially in times when traditional media is censored or afraid.
Bangkok, May 30, 2012--The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns today's conviction of Chiranuch Premchaiporn, webmaster and director of the Prachatai news and commentary website, for violating Thailand's 2007 Computer Crimes Act.
San Francisco, May 30, 2012--The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns today's conviction of Chiranuch Premchaiporn, webmaster of the Prachatai discussion board, under Thailand's Computer Crimes Act. The court's decision, which affirms that website operators can be criminally liable for the content of user comments, chills online press freedom in the country, and leaves Thai news sites vulnerable to unjustified and politically motivated prosecutions.
Earlier today, press and human rights groups from around the world heard that the decision in the case of Chiranuch "Jiew" Premchaiporn, the manager of Thai online news site Prachatai, was being delayed yet another month. Chiranuch is charged under Thailand's Computer Crime Act for 10 counts of not deleting apparently anti-monarchy comments on Prachatai's online discussion boards.
Legislation for Internet security can quickly turn into a weapon against the free press. Cybercrime laws are intended to extend existing penal codes to the online world, but they can easily be broadened to criminalize standard journalistic practices. By Danny O'Brien
Les législations soutenant la sécurité sur Internet peuvent rapidement se transformer en une arme contre la presse libre. Les lois sur la cybercriminalité étendent les codes pénaux du monde en ligne, mais elles peuvent facilement être élargies à criminaliser les activés journalistiques de base. Par Danny O'Brien
Journalists faced significant restrictions, particularly online, despite democratic elections and a change in government. Outgoing Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva cracked down on partisan media, shutting radio stations and detaining Somyot Preuksakasemsuk, editor of a newsmagazine aligned with the anti-government United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship. New premier Yingluck Shinawatra wielded the country's strict lèse majesté laws by censoring websites and Facebook pages, and harassing Internet users who posted online material critical of the monarchy. Chiranuch Premchaiporn, editor of the news website Prachatai, faced a possible 50 years in prison under the draconian 2007 Computer Crimes Act for anonymous anti-royal remarks that were posted to one of her site's comment sections. The case was pending in late year. A reporter was killed in September while covering bombings in the country's insurgency-plagued southern region, a fatality that continued the country's recent spate of media deaths. The government opened a new inquiry into the fatal shooting of Reuters cameraman Hiro Muramoto during 2010 protests in Bangkok, but authorities left unresolved the case of a second international journalist killed in the 2010 unrest, Italian photographer Fabio Polenghi.
Earlier this month, I spoke as an expert witness in the ongoing trial of Chiranuch Premchaiporn, the editor of Thailand's Prachatai.com website, who is being criminally prosecuted under that country's Computer Crime Act and Lesé Majesté laws. The crime involves online posts allegedly disrespectful to Thailand's monarchy, but Chiranuch herself is not accused of originating or posting the commentary.
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