As local politicos, hacks, twitterati and bloggers prepare for this evening’s Slugger Awards, let’s spare a thought for Chiranuch Premchaiporn, Thailand’s Mick Fealty, currently on trial in Bangkok. Her crime? Not removing comments quickly enough from a web forum. If found guilty, she faces the prospect of decades in jail.
Ms Premchaiporn runs Prachatai (Thai People), an online newspaper and web forum which offers news, analysis and comment in a country with severe restrictions on the mainstream media.
The comments at the heart of the case were posted on the site in 2008, and discussed the place of the royal family in Thailand and the 2006 military coup. It is alleged that the comments are offensive to Thailand’s monarchy, violating the country’s draconian lèse majesté law, and a risk to national security. She removed the controversial comments when Thai officials complained. But it was too late. She is now accused of 10 different violations of the Computer Crime Act.
Prachatai estimates that in 2008, 2,500 new comments were posted each day on the site. Even on a good day, I’d say this puts Slugger a little in the shade! Premchaiporn is the sole full-time moderator.
To get a sense of wider online censorship in Thailand, it’s worth noting that the authorities there announced in June 2010 that they had blocked access to some 43,908 websites. In an international press freedom index of 178 nations compiled by Reporters Without Borders, Thailand came 153rd place last year.
So, this evening at the Black Box, let’s celebrate press freedom and the role of the blogger in political life and remember that not everyone enjoys the same liberties. Hope to see some of you there.
I am the Northern Ireland Programme Director of Amnesty International UK and an occasional human rights blogger at Amnesty Blogs: Belfast & Beyond.
I’m on Twitter at @PatrickCorrigan