Thailand: Amnesty calls for the immediate release of female online news editor

Amnesty International today called for the immediate release of an online news editor in Thailand – detained for a comment on her site that was neither written or posted by herself.

Chiranuch Premchaiporn is the executive director of Prachatai (Thai People), a Thai online media portal that contains news, opinion, and a forum for discussion about current affairs in the country. The comment appeared on the site back in April 2008, but the authorities have only brought charges against her now.

She was arrested on Friday (24 September) under the country’s 2007 Computer-related Crimes Act and is currently being held in Khon Kaen police station in north-eastern Thailand.

Tim Hancock, Amnesty International UK’s Campaigns Director, said:

“Amnesty International believes Chiranuch Premchaiporn is a prisoner of conscience, detained solely for the peaceful exercise of her right to freedom of expression, and should be immediately and unconditionally released.

“Her arrest is yet another example of Thailand’s growing obsession with censorship.

“Thailand has seen a backward slide in its respect of freedom of expression in the past three years.

“There has been a sharp increase in monitoring of the internet for lese majeste (insult to the monarchy) content and a marked rise in censorship of peaceful political dissent, and that has led to tens of thousands of websites being blocked.

“This broad-ranging censorship constitutes a violation of Thailand’s obligations under international human rights law and should be reversed immediately.”

Amnesty International is concerned with the Thai government’s characterisation of the lese majeste law as a matter of national security. The same argument about protection of national security is now being used to arbitrarily detain Chiranuch Premchaiporn.
    
Background:
Chiranuch Premchaiporn cannot stop people from posting to the site, but can remove material once it is posted. She can be held for up to 48 days without trial under the Thai Criminal Code.
 
Chiranuch Premchaiporn was previously charged on 6 March 2009 with violating Sections 14 and 15 of the 2007 Computer-related Crimes Act, which relates to offences that endanger national security. She was released on bail, and is awaiting trial for those charges, which in total could lead to a 50-year prison sentence.

Thailand’s Immigration Police (Investigation and Suppression Division) arrested her at passport control in Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport, after she arrived back in Thailand from a brief trip abroad. She was shown an arrest warrant, dated 8 September, relating to material posted on the Prachatai website in April 2008 and that, according to the warrant, endangers Thailand's national security.

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