New York, August 3, 2017--Authorities in Thailand should cease harassing Pravit Rojanaphruk and should drop any criminal proceedings against him for his writing, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Pravit, a columnist at Khaosod English who will be honored with CPJ's International Press Freedom Award this year, told CPJ that he learned late on July 31 that he is accused of sedition for five posts he had written on Facebook.
Pravit wrote on Facebook that the deputy superintendent of the police's Technology Crime Suppression Division informed the journalist of the accusations against him. Pravit told CPJ that the official did not indicate which specific posts police deemed objectionable. The journalist, who has not yet been formally charged, must report to police on August 8 to formally hear the accusation.
"Thai authorities should stop threatening Pravit Rojanaphruk for his writing," CPJ Asia Program Coordinator Steven Butler said from Washington, D.C. "The threat to charge a critical journalist with sedition charges for his Facebook posts shows just how badly press freedom has deteriorated in Thailand under military rule."
If charged and convicted under article 116 of Thailand's Criminal Code, Pravit could be sentenced to a maximum of 20 years in prison. He could also face parallel criminal charges under the Computer Crime Act for disseminating seditious materials online, which carries maximum penalties of five years for each post.
Thailand's attorney general must approve sedition charges before cases move to trial.
CPJ last month announced that Pravit will be one of four recipients of its 2017 International Press Freedom Award, with which the organization each year honors exemplary and courageous reporting. Military authorities have singled out Pravit for harassment since seizing power in a May 2014 coup.
Days after the military's takeover, Pravit was summoned and detained incommunicado for a week. In September 2015, he was again summoned to a military base, where he was interrogated for more than six hours, then blindfolded, driven for more than an hour to a house with blocked-out windows, and held incommunicado by plainclothes military officials.
Upon his release two days later without charge, military officials threatened to freeze his bank account if he continued to criticize the regime, he told CPJ at the time. As a condition of his release, he was forced to sign a pledge that he would not become involved in any activities opposing military rule.
EDITOR'S NOTE: The fourth paragraph of this text has been corrected to reflect that Pravit faces a maximum prison sentence of 20 years if convicted of sedition.