The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has denounced caretaker Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s continued use of criminal defamation charges to silence media criticism of his government.
“In a step backwards for press freedom in Thailand, Thaksin, despite his caretaker position, is clearly attempting to silence all and any criticism of him by his repeated use of criminal defamation laws and unreasonable civil defamation claims,” IFJ president Christopher Warren said.
“Thaksin is veering out of control with his obsession with silencing dissent in Thailand,” said Warren.
On June 14, Thaksin filed one criminal and one civil defamation charge against the opposition Democrat party and three editors from the Thai-daily newspapers, Matichon, Khao Sod and Daily News for publishing comments made by Thepthai Saneponge.
The latest charges come only weeks after Thaksin filed criminal defamation charges against the Manager Daily.
These recent attacks on press freedom in Thailand are a step backwards from the March 2006 victory against criminal defamation when human rights activist Supinya Klangnarong and the Thai Post were found innocent in defamation charges from the Thaksin government.
The Thai Post had published an interview with Supinya in which she accused Thaksin of using his position to unjustly benefit Shin Corp, a company then owned by his family. The court found these accusations to have been made in good faith for the benefit of the public. Shin Corp also withdrew a civil defamation case against Supinya in May in which they were claiming an exorbitant 400 million baht (over $10 million US).
This was hailed by free press and human rights advocates as a victory for media all over the world, but it appears Thailand’s defamation laws are once again being inappropriately used.
“The freedom of the press must be protected and Thaksin’s continuous defamation cases limit journalists’ ability to report confidently,” Warren said.
“The two failed defamation cases against Supinya Klangnarong demonstrate that the Thai legal establishment is willing to defend journalists against their government’s oppressive accusations,” the IFJ president said.
“Thaksin should take note of the court’s decisions and decriminalise defamation in Thailand.”
For more information please contact IFJ Asia Pacific +61 2 9333 0919
The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries