IFJ Condemns Jailing of Writer in Thailand

 

 

The International Federation

of Journalists (IFJ) condemns the decision of a court in Thailand to jail an Australian writer for three

years on charges that he insulted Thailand’s monarchy in a

self-published novel.

 

Harry Nicolaides, 41, apologised and pleaded guilty to charges under Thailand’s

harsh lese majesty laws. The court reduced the sentence from six years.

 

According to the leading court judge, Nicolaides’ 2005 novel, Verisimiltude,

suggested that there was an “abuse of royal power” and was critical of the King,

the Crown Prince and the monarchy. According to Nicolaides, 50 copies were

printed and fewer than a dozen copies were sold.

 

Thailand's lese majesty laws are among the strictest in the world. 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.

 

The case underscores the IFJ’s deep concerns about Thailand’s

ill-defined and outdated lese majesty laws, which allow any citizen to bring

complaints against another person.

 

Since Nicolaides was arrested in August 2008, dozens of new cases have been

laid. In December, an edition

of The Economist was withdrawn from

sale in Thailand

for fear of drawing penalties against magazine distributors. The issue commented critically on the role of Thailand’s

monarchy in national politics, and referred to the way in which lese majesty

laws enforce self-censorship. 

 

“The sentence against Harry Nicolaides is a strike against

freedom of expression in Thailand.

The lese majesty laws override the need for public accountability and are clearly

used to silence dissent,” IFJ Asia-Pacific

Director Jacqueline Park said.

 

“The

constant threat of lese majesty penalties in Thailand is a significant obstacle

to the open and free dialogue that is necessary for peaceful resolution of

conflict.”

 

The IFJ calls on all sides in Thailand 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