BANGKOK – The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers is “deeply concerned” by the misuse of the lese majeste rules, its president Jacob Mathew said at the four-day annual World Newspaper Congress in Bangkok.
Speaking at the 65th annual World Newspaper Congress in Bangkok, Mr Mathew slammed the legislation that makes it illegal to criticise the royal family.
Condemning “undue arrests and imprisonments” of journalists, editors and publishers, Mathew said that the enforcement of the law runs “counter to the principles of press freedom” and is “a violation of the rights of citizens”.
“The misuse of the law has created a climate of fear,” Mr Mathew said, while acknowledging that Thailand’s level of press freedom exceeded that of many Asian countries.
There has been a dramatic increase in the prosecution of lese majeste cases over the past six years of political turmoil, when the institution of the monarchy has become a focal point for deep divisions between the established order and rival forces.
“The problem with Section 112 is that any individual, private or public, can take a lese majeste legal case against anyone who they believe has committed a lese majesty act,” Mr Mathew said.
At the International roundtable entitled ‘The New Media Landscape and its Press Freedom Challenges” yesterday, the audience was told that Southeast Asia is still filled with a lot of “sad story” when it comes to press freedom while a number of African countries pose serious challenges for working journalists.
Though Thailand, the Philippines and Indonesia are regarded as more free when it comes to press freedom in the Southeast Asian region, these countries have their own challenges such as the lese majeste law in Thailand, the killings of journalists in Indonesia and the Philippines and the controlling of the Internet through laws such as Computer Crimes Act in Thailand and the Philippines, said Gayatri Venkitesuwaren, executive director of the Bangkok-based Southeast Asian Press Alliance.