Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is alarmed that Thailand’s
severe lese majesty laws have again imposed restrictions on independent and
critical reporting of important issues in Thailand, with the current edition
of The Economist withdrawn from sale
in the country for fear of drawing harsh penalties against distributors of the
magazine’s 6-10 December issue carries articles which comment
critically on the role of Thailand’s
monarchy and King Bhumibol Adulyadej in national politics, and refer to
the negative effects of lese majesty laws in fuelling self-censorship by both
local and international media.
A spokeswoman for the magazine was
reported as saying The Economist decided
to withdraw the edition from sale in Thailand because distributors were at
risk of being accused of lese majesty, which carries penalties of up to 15
police were reported to have discussed the matter with importers and
distributors of the magazine and noted that there was no need to impose a ban
because distributors agreed not to sell the magazine.
the articles remain accessible on The
Economist’s website, which is reported not to have been blocked in Thailand.
simmering tensions in Thailand
will not be allayed by blocking people’s right to publicly question and analyse
the country’s political and social environment and structures,” IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said.
“The constant threat of lese majesty
penalties is a significant obstacle to the open and free dialogue that is
necessary for peaceful resolution of conflict.”
Thailand's lese majesty laws are among the strictest in the world and are used frequently by power-holders to
silence criticism. Thailand’s constitution dictates reverence for the
King must not be violated, while the criminal code allows for a penalty of
three to 15 years’ jail for “defaming, insulting or threatening” the King,
Queen, Heir-apparent or Regent. Lese majesty complaints can be filed by any
individual and police are required to investigate all complaints.
Lese majesty charges were laid recently
against Australian writer Harry Nicolaides, who has been held in detention in Bangkok since late August
on accusations of offending the monarchy in a novel published several years
“Thailand’s lese majesty laws take
the country on the path followed by closed societies,” Ms Park said.
The IFJ calls on all sides in Thailand’s
political conflict to recognise the essential value of open discussion in
resolving disputes, and to take a public position in defence of a free media
and the right to freedom of expression.
information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific
on +612 9333 0919
The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries worldwide