Court of Appeal finds Prachatai Director guilty in lèse majesté-related case

The Court of Appeal on Friday at 10 am ruled that Chiranuch Premchaiporn was guilty of allowing lèse majesté comments, posted by others, on her website. The Court of Appeal upheld the decision of the Court of First Instance in May 2012, to sentence Chiranuch to one year in prison and a fine of 30,000 baht, but since Chiranuch’s testimony was beneficial to the trial, the jail term was reduced to eight months and the fine was reduced to 20,000 baht.  The jail term was suspended for one year.

Chiranuch was accused of allowing 10 lèse majesté comments to be posted on the Prachatai webboard.  Most of the comments were published on the web forum for 1-3 days and one for 11 days before being taken down by Prachatai. One particular comment was posted for 20 days

The judge said the Court of Appeal agreed with the Court of First Instance that it was convincing that the defendant had not consented to the nine comments that appeared on the forum for 1-11 days. However, the court was not convinced that the defendant was not aware of one particular comment which appeared for 20 days.

Given that the defendant was 41 years old at the time, she had graduated from journalism school and she had worked in the media industry, she should have been aware that internet forums can be abused by criminals who use it to defame the monarchy, the judge said, adding that as a Thai citizen, the defendant has a duty to protect the monarchy. 

The judge acknowledged the defendant’s arguments concerning the high volume of information flowing through intermediaries and the notice and takedown procedure used in the US. However, the judge said the notice and takedown procedure in the US concerns copyright issues, not content related to national security.

Although the defendant recruited volunteers to monitor the forum and allowed readers to flag potentially illegal comments, the defendant still cannot deny responsibility. It was the duty of the defendant to take every precaution possible. The defendant should have hired more staff or installed filtering software in order to prevent illegal comments, the judge added.

Teerapan Pankeeree, Chiranuch’s attorney, said the chance of the case going to the Supreme Court is slim because according to the Criminal Procedure Code, if the Appeal Court upholds the decision of the Court of First Instance, the defendant must seek approval from one of the judges overseeing the case before the case can be submitted to the Supreme Court. The defendant has not yet decided whether to do this, he added.