24 Jan 2013

Thai journalist jailed for insulting King

A leading Thai journalist was handed a 10-year prison sentence earlier this week for insulting the royal family, exposing the country's lese-majeste laws to widespread international condemnation from human rights groups and the EU.

King of Thailand: mind your Ps and Qs ARZTSAMUI/Shutterstock.com

According to a Reuters news agency report, Somyot Prueksakasemsuk was found guilty of publishing articles defaming King Bhumibol Adulyadej in 2010 when he was editor of a magazine that published an article on former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Fictional character

In the magazine, a fictional character supposedly representing the 85-year-old king was criticised. In Thailand, discussion of the role of the monarchy is forbidden.
When passing the sentence, a judge said: ‘The accused is a journalist who had a duty to check the facts in these articles before publishing them. He knew the content defamed the monarchy but allowed their publication anyway.’

Lese-majeste law

In a statement, the EU delegation to Thailand said the verdict and sentence undermined the right to freedom of expression, adding: ‘At the same time, it affects Thailand's image as a free and democratic society.’
Elsewhere, New York-based Human Rights Watch said the ruling was ‘more about Somyot's strong support for amending the lese-majeste law than about any harm incurred by the monarchy’.

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