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
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ill-defined and outdated lese majesty laws, which allow any citizen to bring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of The Economist was withdrawn from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.
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
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.
information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0919
represents over 600,000 journalists in
120 countries worldwide