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Thai journalist’s ban from joining UNESCOs Press Freedom Day conference in Helsinki violates freedom of expression

Finnish organizations promoting freedom of expression are disappointed in Thailand’s government’s decision to ban journalist Pravit Rojanaphruk from travelling to Finland. Rojanaphruk was invited to participate in UNESCOs Press Freedom Day conference in Helsinki during May 2–4 2016. Finnish PEN, Reporters Without Borders in Finland, Finnish Foundation for Media and Development Vikes and Union of Journalists in Finland are demanding Pravit Rojanaphruk to be allowed to participate in the conference. Kirsti Westphalen, Finland’s ambassador to Thailand, has also expressed her regret in Thai authorities’ decision.
 
“A journalist participating in International Press Freedom Day can’t possess any kind of real threat to his home country. This ban is a punishment targeted to a single professional. Also, it is a blow on freedom of expression. According to the PEN International charter, free expression requires free movability and exchange of thoughts and the right to criticize governments and institutions”, says author Sirpa Kähkönen, president of Finnish PEN.
 
Pravit Rojanaphruk, who contributes to Khaosod English media outlet, is known as a keen defender of freedom of expression, who hasn’t shied away from criticizing Thailand’s military junta: The National Council of Peace and Order’s (NCPO) coup d’état took place in May 2014. He’s been particularly critical towards Thailand’s lèse-majesté law and has been arrested twice. Pravit Rojanaphruk worked over two decades for the newspaper The National but lost his job due to the pressure received by the paper after his detention. The lèse-majesté law is against the main principles of freedom of expression and an efficient way to silence media.
 
Background information 
 
NCPO has sustained ”peace and order” in Thailand by martial law that was revoked in March 2015. Media is still being strictly controlled and censorship reaches Internet. Journalists, dissidents, researchers, human rights activists and artists are being silenced. If not committing to self-censorship, the climate of fear is being created by handing fines and through arbitrary detention. Writers are arrested, imprisoned and they disappear solely for practicing their legal right to peacefully express their opinions.
 
Thailand is a state party to International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which protects the legal right in expressing one’s opinion. PEN demands Thailand to fulfil its international obligations in protecting freedom of expression, to stop harassing writers and free the imprisoned writers.
 
1.4.2016 in Helsinki