The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today joined widespread criticism of a ruling by a court in Bangkok which last week jailed for ten years Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, the editor of the Voice of the Oppressed (Voice of Taksin), after convicting him on lèse -majesté charges. The accusations followed the publications of two articles in 2010 which the authorities claimed were offensive to the Thai monarch.
The court's decision of 23 January drew a sharp condemnation from around the world, including by the European Union and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
"The reactions to the ruling reflect the strength of feeling against the court's decision which has the potential to damage severely the country's standing," said Jim Boumelha, IFJ President. "The sentence handed down by the Court speaks more to curtailing critical reporting in Thailand than to protecting the monarch."
The European Union said it was "deeply concerned" by the court's decision while the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay warned that "The conviction and extremely harsh sentencing of Somyot sends the wrong signals on freedom of expression in Thailand. The court's decision is the latest indication of a disturbing trend in which lese-majesty charges are used for political purposes."
Somyot, who is also a leading labour activist in Thailand, was arrested on 30 April 2011 following publication in his magazine of two articles which the authorities claimed constituted lèse-majesté offences, a crime that carries up to 30 years of imprisonment. He was repeatedly denied bail despite suffering from gout and hypertension and has reportedly complained about his treatment while in detention, including being made to stand in a truck during the trips to various court hearings outside the capital, despite his ill - heath.
The IFJ says that the treatment that was meted out to Somyot and the gravity of his sentence have left the Thai authorities open to accusations of retaliatory measures against the journalist.
"They must now dispel these suspicions and allow him bail so that he can receive treatment while waiting for his appeal," added Boumelha. "But equally important is the repeal of the lèse-majesté laws which lead to such a disproportionate response to journalists exercising their rights."
For more information, please contact IFJ on + 32 2 235 22 07
The IFJ represents more than 600.000 journalists in 134 countries