UPDATE (Thailand): Criminal defamation charges dropped in trial of media campaigner Supinya 


Urgent Appeal Case: UP-046-2006
ISSUES: Freedom of expression, Human rights defenders,


[RE: UA-73-2004: THAILAND: Human rights defender faces preliminary decision in libel case on 21 June 2004 and UP-31 2004: THAILAND: Criminal Court decides to let libel suit against Ms Supinya Klangnarong proceed on 29 June 2004; UP-62-2004: THAILAND: Update on libel suit against media-reform activist Ms Supinya; UP-31-2005: THAILAND: Media reform campaigner Supinya holds fund-raising event to fight criminal libel case; UP-111-2005: THAILAND: Final witnesses for defence to speak in trial of media campaigner Supinya; UP-044-2006: THAILAND: Final verdict to be given in trial of media campaigner Supinya]
UP-046-2006: THAILAND: Criminal defamation charges dropped in trial of media campaigner Supinya

THAILAND: Criminal defamation; denial of freedom of speech; threats to human rights defenders

Dear friends,

It is with great pleasure that the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) writes to inform you of the outcome in today’s final judgement given in the trial of media reform campaigner Ms Supinya Klangnarong and the Thai Post newspaper (to see details of this case, please refer to: UP-044-2006UP-111-2005UP-31-2005UP-62-2004UP-31-2004 & UA-73-2004). In front of hundreds of supporters who had assembled at the court, the judge announced that the defendants, including Supinya, were innocent of the charges laid against them and subsequently dismissed them.

In reading the final summary, the judge noted four main points:

1. Although Shin Corp is a public company it is also a national resource, which uses the material resources of the state. As such, it is legitimate to criticise its operations.

2. As Shin Corp was previously owned by Prime Minister of Thailand, Mr Thaksin Shinawatra, and since Thaksin is a public figure, it is therefore legitimate for persons to criticise him and his actions.

3. Supinya thoroughly researched her story before publishing it and therefore her comments had a sound basis and were not done with the intention to damage Shin Corp. Furthermore, her employer, Campaign for Popular Media Reform (CPMR), has an objective to democratise the media, and this again gives legitimacy to Supinya’s actions.

4. The Thai Post newspaper, including the company itself and its three editors, were merely doing their job in printing Supinya’s story.

Based on these four points, the charges were dismissed. Though Shin Corp’s lawyer once again asked for the case to be settled prior to the final announcement, the defendants refused his offer and the court hearing went ahead. Upon hearing the outcome of the case, the supporters of Supinya erupted in applause.

This judgement is a good and fair outcome for Supinya and the Thai post newspaper. It upholds the basic principles of freedom of expression, as outlined in Article 39 of the Constitution. It also clears Supinya and the other defendants of a charge – criminal defamation – that should never have been brought against them.

While we certainly welcome this news, the AHRC remains concerned about criminal defamation in Thailand, as this case demonstrates the huge financial and human resources required to fight such a charge, despite the court stating that there was never any basis for it in the first instance. This is particularly disturbing for the many other cases like Supinya’s currently pending before the courts (as an example, please refer to: UP-038-2006).

Supinya’s case also demonstrates that it is vital that proposed legal reforms in Thailand address the antiquated laws that violate the principle of free expression established both under the Constitution of Thailand and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Thailand is a party. Foremost among these are the criminal defamation law, which should be abolished without delay, and the existing civil defamation law reviewed to bring it into line with international standards. Until these changes take place, the people of Thailand will not feel free to speak, broadcast or publish their comments without fear of being prosecuted for them.

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (ahrchk@ahrchk.org)

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Document Type : Urgent Appeal Update
Document ID : UP-046-2006
Countries : Thailand,
Issues : Freedom of expression, Human rights defenders,