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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Thailand: Head of an independent online newspaper Prachatai was accused

This is the machine translated article by Google Translate. Original German version is here.

On Friday, 9/24/2010 was Chiranuch Premchaiporn, webmaster of the online newspaper Prachatai arrested upon return from Hungary in Bangkok by the Thai police. Premchaiporn just came back from an international conference on Internet freedom.

Afterwards, she was in the province of Khon Kaen, north-east of the country brought, where even on 8 September, a warrant was issued against them. She is accused of defaming the royal family and infringement of Articles 14 and 15 of the Computer Crime Act and Articles 112 and 116 of the Penal Code. The charges relate to comments, however, have appeared already in 2008 in the online newspaper Prachatai. After paying a deposit, she was released the following day.

The arrest of Premchaiporn and the charges against them were from national organizations such as the Thai Network Netizen and international organizations such as Reporters Without Borders condemns and Amnesty International.

Prachatai - independent online newspaper
Prachatai is an independent online newspaper, which is due to their open and critical reporting in Thailand is very popular. The online newspaper was founded in 2004 and focuses on the production and dissemination of messages that are not publicized by traditional media. In addition, visitors had the opportunity to create Prachatai, in a comment or a Web portal to exchange views and information. In connection with the political crisis in Thailand in early 2010, the Office of Prachatai in March was searched by the police and Chiranuch already arrested a first time. Even then she was released after paying a bail and is now awaiting the appropriate court, also for violating the computer crime law.

The site was during the clashes in April and May several times and blocked the address had to be changed frequently. Currently, the online newspaper at the address be achieved.

In late July announced Prachatai, the community areas - which can set your own visitor reviews and comments - to close. The reason given was that Prachatai could no longer guarantee the safety of users and the operator would bring yourself at risk.

Questionable computer crime law
The Computer Crime Act was passed in 2007 with the intention to pornography and computer crime act is, however, since often been used to limit critical voices in the political debate. According to official figures of the Thai Ministry of Information and Communication Technology 43 000 websites have been blocked so far. Since 2007 at least five charges against authors and webmaster for dissemination of information collected via the Internet.

The law will come into force since his very controversial issue in society. In Article 14, only a very vague definition of the contents is given, which can be a criminal offense. They are commonly referred to as "endangering national security" or "public panic" and thus offer much room for interpretation. In addition, this Article, the competent authorities authorized to initiate proceedings in cases already, which could lead to violations. This exceeds the powers of the Criminal Code and allows the authorities, even on pure suspicion, to act. Criticism of Article 15 relates to the question of responsibility for the content of web pages. Content is published, such as the threat to "national security", not only the author is, but consider also the webmaster and providers to account, because the latter are partly responsible for making that disclosure of such information. Both circumstances have created a climate of uncertainty and lead to self-censorship, as in the case of the closure of the community functions of Prachatai.

Treason: controversial issue in Thai society 
The crime of treason is defined in Article 112 of the Penal Code, and states that defamatory, insulting or threatening comments against the king, queen or regent are punishable by imprisonment up to 15 years. During the political crisis of 2010, accusations of treason were frequently abused by the various political camps to each other's harm. This is facilitated by the fact that anyone can make a complaint at the police, the royal family looks other defamed by statements.

Media for Democracy: projects of the Heinrich Boell Foundation
The office of the Heinrich Boell Foundation in Thailand has been working for several years on independent media in Thailand to make a contribution to better inform the public and to media freedom. An ongoing project deals with the above-mentioned computer crime law and seeks to clarify and improve the legislation to prevent future abuse. This include comparisons with other countries posited to be made. working with the Prachatai Heinrich Boell Foundation is currently on a research project to study the effects of the political crisis of 2010 to the new media. Were conducted with twelve interviews with media representatives, both online as to be published in paper form.

Sopida Werakultawan is program coordinator of the program "Media for Democracy ', Jost Pachaly is director of the Southeast Asia Regional Office of the Heinrich Boell Foundation in Bangkok

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