Bangkok post picks up the story again
International journalists: Free Somyot
Published: 23/03/2012 at 01:07 PM
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has urged Thai authorities to release Voice of Taksin magazine editor-in-chief Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, who is being detained without bail pending a verdict in his ongoing trial on charges of lese majeste.
“We are deeply concerned about the wellbeing of our colleague who has been held for almost a year, despite suffering ill health,” IFJ president Jim Boumelha said in an issued statement. “Somyot is innocent until proven guilty and poses no risk to public order. There is simply no reasonable basis to deny him bail.”
Mr Somyot, a leading labour activist, was arrested on April 30, 2011 following the publication in his magazine of two articles which the authorities deemed were offensive towards the monarchy.
The charge carries a penalty of up to 30 years imprisonment. He has been repeatedly refused bail.
His trial began in November last year has been taking place before criminal courts outside Bangkok – in Sa Kaeo, Petchabun and Nakon Sawan provinces. He has reportedly complained about his treatment while in detention, including being made to stand in a truck during the trips to various court hearings outside the capital even though the 50 year old suiffers from gout and hypertension.
The IFJ said in its statement that Mr Somyot’s detention conditions have added to the outrage at the continuing use of an archaic lese majeste law which lacks clarity and can be abused to suppress legitimate dissent in the country.
The Federation backs the UN Special Rapporteur of Freedom of Expression, Frank La Rue, who called in October 2011 for reform of this law, noting that “the threat of a long prison sentence and vagueness of what kinds of expression constitute defamation, insult or a threat to the monarchy encourage self-censorship and stifle important debates on matters of public interest, thus putting in jeopardy the right to freedom of opinion and expression”.
“We believe the case for the reform of this law is now unanswerable for the survival of press freedom and democratic pluralism in Thailand,” Mr Boumelha said. “Somyot’s detention has laid bare the blatant abuse of the legislation for political purposes and its repeal is overdue.”
Mr Somyot has been denied bail eight times, despite the two previous applications being sanctioned by the Justice Ministry.