Criminal Defamation Charges by Thai Prime Minister Out of Step with Democratic Values, says IFJ

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has condemned the criminal defamation charges brought by Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra against four leading Thai newspapers.

Charges were filed against the newspapers; Thai Post, Manager Daily, Krungthep Tooragit, and Post Today for their coverage of the recent anti-government protests.

“The charges are an attempt to intimidate and scare the media into not reporting on Thaksin’s critics,” says IFJ president Christopher Warren. "Thaksin needs to recognise that it’s the media’s responsibility to publish all sides of a story,” said Warren.

All of the newspapers charged had published speeches made at the protest alleging Thaksin’s government sold national assets to foreigners. Criminal defamation carries a possible two-year jail term, and fines of approximately 200,000 baht, or US$5000.

The latest charges come in the wake of the recent favourable ruling for Supinya Klangnarong and Thai Post, in the criminal defamation case on March 15. Supinya had made comments to Thai Post that Thaksin’s government had introduced policies to benefit Shin Corp, owned at the time by Thaksin’s family. The court ruled that public entities, including companies and public figures, have a higher burden of criticism if it serves the national interest.

“In light of the landmark Supinya verdict, recognising the national interest of subjecting public officials to criticism, these latest charges show that Thaksin is out of step not just with the public and democratic values but also the independent Thai judiciary,” said Warren.

The criminal court has also this month postponed hearings on a criminal defamation suit filed by the state-run New Bangkok International Airport and Airports Authority of Thailand, against the Bangkok Post. The English-language Bangkok Post had run, and then retracted a story claiming construction flaws at the new Bangkok airport.

“These defamation charges are Thaksin attempting to simply shoot the messenger,” said Warren. “True democracy is not possible when alternate voices are silenced”.

For more information please contact IFJ Asia Pacific +61 2 9333 0919

The IFJ represents more than 500,000 journalists in over 110 countries