Submitted on Tue, 2017-08-08 13:17
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the Thai authorities to abandon any plan to prosecute Pravit Rojanaphruk, a well-known journalist and free speech advocate who is to be questioned by police tomorrow about a complaint accusing him of sedition in five Facebook posts.
A leading critic of Thailand’s military junta and its lèse-majesté law, Pravit could face a possible 20-year jail sentence if prosecuted on a sedition charge under article 116 of the criminal code as a result of the complaint brought against him by a police lieutenant-colonel.
This is just the latest of many attempts to silence Pravit, who has often been targeted by the authorities in connection with his reporting for the Khaosod English news website and (previously) for The Nationnewspaper, and the views he expresses.
As well judicial harassment, he was banned from leaving the country in 2016 to stop him attending a UNESCO event to mark World Press Freedom Day. In 2015, he was subjected to an “attitude adjustment”session in an undisclosed location. He was detained for a week in 2014.
“We call on the authorities to immediately drop any criminal proceedings against Pravit Rojanaphruk,” RSF said. “This forthright journalist has been harassed repeatedly just for expressing his opinions and defending the freedom to inform, to the point that he had to leave his former position with The Nation. It is time the authorities realized that free speech and media freedom are fundamental rights that cannot be attacked in this way, and especially with complete impunity.”
Announcing last month that Pravit is to be one of the recipients of its 2017 International Press Freedom Award, the Committee to Protect Journalists described him as “a critical reporter and press freedom advocate in Thailand, who was harassed by the government and detained twice in recent years over his coverage of Thai politics and human rights.”
The Thai authorities have constantly violated media freedom ever since the May 2014 coup d’état that brought the military-led National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) to power.
Both Thai and foreign journalists and citizen-journalists who dare to criticize the government are often prosecuted on defamation charges, imprisoned or forced to flee the country. In April, the government prohibited any online contact with three political dissidents accused of lèse-majesté.
Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, a citizen-journalist, was arrested in February just for sharing a BBC article on Facebook. After eight months in detention, he is now facing up to 15 years in prison in a trial that has just begun.
Thailand is ranked 142nd out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index.
Pravit campaigned against the junta’s censorship of the media in 2014 (Photo from Kapook)