Journalist for independent news site faces criminal trial [Thailand]

por Nicole Martinelli
Oct 30, 2018 en Digital and Physical Safety

Chiranuch Premchaiporn, known as Jiew, is the director and webmaster of Prachatai, an alternative Thai news website.

Although she is currently out on bail, Jiew faces two criminal charges against her that carry the possibility of an 82-year sentence when she appears in court on Friday, February 4.

It all started in 2008, when Prachatai web board users posted comments critical of Thailand’s monarchy. The government charged that these statements violated the country's 2007 Computer-Related Offences Commission Act.

As the editor of Prachatai, Premchaiporn is being held liable for those reader comments, even though Prachatai removed the comments after requests from Thai police.

She was charged with Section 14 and Section 15 of Thailand's Computer-Related Crime Act, but also lèse majesté and raising unrest among people.

The charges against her may bring an abrupt halt to a promising career. Premchaiporn, who started the site in 2004, was also recently named a Knight Ashoka Fellow for her outstanding work.

In a 2010 interview with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Premchaiporn was asked about how the legal case was impacting her life:

“I can hardly have a long-term plan in life...Prachatai web board, as an important work of mine, had to be shut down. It was not easy to give up on what I have laid a strong foundation, but the burden on both Prachatai and users themselves had been too much to manage. I felt like we can no longer guarantee a safe and free channel for people to express socially and politically.”

Those interested in helping her can follow her blog, spread the word on Twitter by using the #freejiew tag or contribute to her legal fund.

Should websites be held accountable for their users' comments? Join the IJNet Discussion.

Update: You can read a detailed account of the first day in court at Global Voices. The trial resumes Tuesday, February 8.