Dear President Obama: We are pleased that you will begin your second term as U.S. president with a trip to Southeast Asia. As you visit Burma, Cambodia, and Thailand from November 17 through 20 while attending the 21st Association of Southeast Asian Nations Summit and related meetings in Phnom Penh, we hope that your commitment to human rights and the fundamental right to free expression remains an important aspect of your agenda.
At online discussion sites all over the world, comments are posted on the Web as soon as they are written. People argue, inform, express anger, and voice fears. Some say things in the heat of the moment that they might go on to regret. Others are elliptical and obscure. The enabling of such conversations is an important modern method of discovering and re-telling the news, and encourages previously uninvolved readers of the news to help gather and disseminate it--especially in times when traditional media is censored or afraid.
Bangkok, May 30, 2012--The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns today's conviction of Chiranuch Premchaiporn, webmaster and director of the Prachatai news and commentary website, for violating Thailand's 2007 Computer Crimes Act.
San Francisco, May 30, 2012--The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns today's conviction of Chiranuch Premchaiporn, webmaster of the Prachatai discussion board, under Thailand's Computer Crimes Act. The court's decision, which affirms that website operators can be criminally liable for the content of user comments, chills online press freedom in the country, and leaves Thai news sites vulnerable to unjustified and politically motivated prosecutions.
Earlier today, press and human rights groups from around the world heard that the decision in the case of Chiranuch "Jiew" Premchaiporn, the manager of Thai online news site Prachatai, was being delayed yet another month. Chiranuch is charged under Thailand's Computer Crime Act for 10 counts of not deleting apparently anti-monarchy comments on Prachatai's online discussion boards.
Earlier this month, I spoke as an expert witness in the ongoing trial of Chiranuch Premchaiporn, the editor of Thailand's Prachatai.com website, who is being criminally prosecuted under that country's Computer Crime Act and Lesé Majesté laws. The crime involves online posts allegedly disrespectful to Thailand's monarchy, but Chiranuch herself is not accused of originating or posting the commentary.
Three Southeast Asian journalists--Cambodia's Hang Chakra, Malaysia's Zulkiflee Anwar Ul Haque, or Zunar, and Thailand's Chiranuch Premchaiporn--were among the 48 awardees of the Hellman/Hammett grant, given to writers targeted with political persecution, who were recognized today by Human Rights Watch for their commitment to press freedom.
Hearings commenced today in the trial of Chiranuch Premchaiporn, executive director of the Thailand-based independent news website Prachatai. She stands accused of 10 different violations of the country's draconian 2007 Computer Crime Act (CCA), each of which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.
UPDATE, OCTOBER 22, 2010: CPJ's board of directors sets policy for the organization. At the October 18 meeting of the board, directors discussed the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act, known as COICA.
The September 30 blog post below incorrectly stated that CPJ had "joined with other press freedom and civil liberty organizations and the Internet's pioneering engineers to urge the U.S. Senate to reject COICA in its current form." After discussion, the board determined that CPJ should take no position on the proposed legislation at this time. The matter was referred to the CPJ policy committee for further review.
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