Thailand's press freedom downgraded to "Not Free" for 2012: Freedom House

Washington DC - Thailand's media freedom is categorized as "Not Free" for the year 2012, a change from "Partly Free" the previous year due to ‘court rulings that the lèse-majesté law does not contradict constitutional provisions for freedom of expression and that third-party hosts are liable for lèse-majesté content posted online’, a Freedom House report released on Wednesday said.  Thailand’s score in press freedom worsened from 60 to 62 (higher scores mean less free), enough to move it into the third category behind ‘free’ (scores between 10 and 30) and ‘partly free’ (scores between 31 and 60).

Thailand is the only country in the Asia Pacific whose status changed, according to the report ‘Freedom of the Press 2013: A Global Survey of Media Independence’. While Cambodia's press freedom score worsened due to ongoing arrests of journalists (from 63 to 66 points), and Burma experienced the most significant gain (from 85 to 72 points), they remain categorized as "Not Free" country. 
 
Other countries in the region classified as ‘not free’ are Malaysia (64), Singapore (67), Brunei (75), China (83), Lao PDR and Vietnam (both 84).  ‘Partly free’ countries include Hong Kong (35), India (38), the Philippines (43) and Indonesia (49)
 
The report said "aggressive enforcement" of Article 112 of the Penal Code which silences comments deemed offensive to the monarchy, and last year's Constitutional Court's decision that determined that the lèse majesté law was not unconstitutional has contributed to lessening freedom of the press in Thailand.  
 
"The other thing that we're quite worried is the third party liability so a web host can be held responsible for content that someone else posted on their website," said Freedom House Project Director Karin Karlekar, referring to the case of Prachatai director Chiranuch Premchaiporn, who was handed down an eight-month suspended sentence for violating the Computer Crime Act. 
 
"Things like that are quite worrying because in the internet age where you have transnational media, it's quite difficult to prosecute people who run the website or the server," she said. "I think it's a serious concern that these types of cases are going forward in Thailand. And it's really an exception in an otherwise very open and democratic country."
 
The report surveys 197 countries based on 109 expert-rated indicators dealing with the legal, political and economic environment during January-December 2012.
 

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