Waiting For Justice: Verdict Due In Thai Internet Freedom Case
A verdict is scheduled to be read tomorrow, May 30, in the landmark Internet freedom case of 2011 Courage in Journalism Award winner Chiranuch Premchaiporn of Thailand. Premchaiporn faces a prison term for user comments posted on her news website Prachatai criticizing the Thai monarchy. She has been awaiting a verdict since her trail ended in February of this year.
Premchaiporn is being charged under Thailand’s Computer Crimes Act (CCA), which criminalizes web content that “causes damage” and penalizes “administrators” for materials posted by other parties. Combined with the country's lèse majesté laws, any online remarks critical of the monarchy or a member of the royal family can be punished with fines and imprisonment. Premchaiporn was arrested and her offices raided in March 2009 after one charge of violating the CCA was brought against her. More charges were added before her trail began in 2010.
Premchaiporn is positive about the case and hopes for an acquittal. She said she believes “the justice system in the country still functions at some level” and that she has been treated better than many of her colleagues charged with similar crimes. international press and Internet freedom organizations say that the CCA and other laws that stymie free expression in Thailand are in need of reform.
During her trial, Premchaiporn has been supported by many groups, with observers from the European Union, American Embassy and International Bar Association in attendance throughout her trail. Representatives from Google, Human Rights Watch and Reporters Without Borders, among others, have follwed her case and advocated for her.
A very different kind of support has come from Amnesty International, which organized a letter-writing campaign that has resulted in “thousands” of postcards, notes and drawings, according to Premchaiporn. She carries photographed copies of some of the letters in her tablet computer, saying they provide her with a boost of moral and emotional support that has kept her motivated during a three-year span of arrests, imprisonment and court proceedings.
The Asian Human Rights Commission has called for observers to bear witness during the verdict reading, which will take place at 9:30 a.m. ICT. Link to their appeal here.