Lese Majesty Laws Stifle Media in Thailand

 

 

The International

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of The Economist withdrawn from sale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.

 

The well-respected

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

years’ jail.

 

Thai

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.

 

However,

the articles remain accessible on The

Economist’s website, which is reported not to have been blocked in Thailand.

 

“The

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

ago.

 

“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.

 

For further

information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific

on +612 9333 0919

 

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries worldwide