Google: Thai webmaster verdict 'threat' to Internet

A Thai online editor was Wednesday handed a suspended jail term for failing to remove a comment critical of the revered monarchy on her website, prompting Google to issue a stark warning over Internet freedom.

Chiranuch Premchaiporn was found guilty of failing to speedily delete a post written by others deemed insulting to the royal family from her popular news website.

Judge Kampol Rungrat sentenced Chiranuch to eight months in prison, but suspended the jail term for a year, saying that she had cooperated with the court in Bangkok and had "never violated the law herself".

Analysts said the 44-year-old webmaster's suspended term is unlikely to herald a wider loosening of the kingdom's royal defamation laws, which critics decry as an assault on free speech, including online commentary.

In a rare and outspoken intervention late Wednesday, Google said Chiranuch's sentence had set a legal precedent which cramps companies hosting Internet platforms and poses a danger to web users.

"Today's guilty verdict for something somebody else wrote on her website is a serious threat to the future of the Internet in Thailand," a Google spokesman said in an emailed statement to AFP.

"Telephone companies are not penalised for things people say on the phone and responsible website owners should not be punished for comments users post on their sites."

Chiranuch was charged over 10 comments posted on the popular Prachatai news site in 2008.

Recognising she had never "violated the law herself" the court said she had removed nine of those posts quickly enough, but found the 20 days she had taken to remove one was in breach of the law.

"The defendant cannot deny responsibility for taking care of content on her website," the judge said, adding she was initially given a one-year jail term but that this was reduced to reflect her "useful" testimony to the court. The court fined Chiranuch 20,000 baht ($630).

The monarchy is a highly sensitive topic in politically turbulent Thailand. The 84-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who is revered as a demi-god by many Thais, has been hospitalised since September 2009.

Critics say charges brought under Thailand's tough royal defamation laws are often politically motivated and amount to an assault on free speech.

The Internet has become one of the key battlegrounds for Thailand's complex political debates with social networks surging in popularity over the last several years as the opposing factions rose to prominence.

Tens of thousands of web pages have been removed from the Internet in recent years from for allegedly insulting the monarchy.

Speaking after the verdict, a smiling Chiranuch -- who throughout had denied the charges -- left open the possibility of an appeal over her conviction.

"I will consult with my lawyer to see whether or not I should appeal to confirm my innocence," she said, adding that she will "think hard" about re-opening the website's forum, which was closed following the charges.

Chiranuch's suspended sentence follows considerable domestic and foreign condemnation of Thailand's royal slur laws, but analysts said it would not mean fewer lese majeste prosecutions.

David Streckfuss, an independent analyst based in Thailand, said by finding her guilty the court had fired a warning shot to web users to say there will be "no more leeway" to what can be said about the monarchy online.

Scrutiny of the law has intensified since the death of a 62-year-old Thai man this month while serving a 20-year sentence for committing lese majeste.

On Tuesday, a petition signed by almost 27,000 people urging reform was submitted to parliament in the first mass action of its kind.

Amnesty International researcher Benjamin Zawacki welcomed the suspension of Chiranuch's jail term, but said the guilty verdict still infringed on freedom of expression.

"For political purposes an acquittal was simply not on the cards," he said. "The suspended sentence seems the most politically palatable way for the government to handle this."

Loading...

Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • FordPH Launches the All-New Mustang
    FordPH Launches the All-New Mustang

    Ford Philippines launched the all-new Mustang in a rock concert held at Bonifacio Global City, Taguig, last week .  The All-New Mustang is the sixth generation since Ford  launched the first model in April 17, 1964. “The all-new Mustang represents the very best of Ford and its arrival marks the latest chapter of the iconic muscle car’s rich legacy, crafted with a more contemporary look and feel.  With a history spanning more than 50 years, this iconic car is at the heart and soul of Ford and …

  • China maritime tensions dominate Southeast Asia summit
    China maritime tensions dominate Southeast Asia summit

    By Manuel Mogato and Praveen Menon KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Southeast Asian leaders edged closer to open criticism of China's land reclamation in the disputed South China Sea at a regional summit on Monday, as the Philippines drew the ire of Beijing which called its objections to the work "unreasonable". The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Kuala Lumpur, which was supposed to showcase the 10-member bloc's progress towards economic integration, was overshadowed by the …

  • Halt Indonesia drug executions until graft claims probed: Australia
    Halt Indonesia drug executions until graft claims probed: Australia

    Australia urged Indonesia Monday to wait before executing two men on drugs offences until a corruption investigation into the judges that sentenced them was completed. "Bali Nine" drug traffickers Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan could face the firing squad within days, along with others from Brazil, Nigeria, the Philippines and an Indonesian prisoner. "I should point out that Mr Chan and Mr Sukumaran's lawyers are pursuing action before the Constitutional Court in Indonesia," Bishop told ABC …

  • The ‘All You Need’ 2015 Isuzu D-MAX launched
    The ‘All You Need’ 2015 Isuzu D-MAX launched

    Isuzu Philippines Corporation (IPC) just recently introduced the 2015 Isuzu D-MAX pick-up truck at the Clark International Raceway to show that their pick-up model can conquer any kind of terrain.The high-end LS variant and standard LT 4x4 is now equipped with a more powerful engine, the 4JK1-TC (Hi) 2.5-liter engine which with Common Rail Direct Injection and an intercooled Variable Geometry System (VGS) turbocharger. IPC also introduced a new standard ride variant, the LT-X 4x2 manual …

  • Limited Edition Honda CR-V and Jazz now available
    Limited Edition Honda CR-V and Jazz now available

    If you’ve always wanted to be part of an exclusive group of car owners, now might be the time for you to consider getting a Honda CR-V or Jazz.  Honda Cars Philippines Inc. (HCPI) just came out with their limited edition All New Jazz and New CR-V. …

  • ToyotaPH hit its highest monthly sales last March
    ToyotaPH hit its highest monthly sales last March

    Toyota Motors Philippines hit its highest monthly sales to date last March, registering 10,237 units sold.  This recent CAMPI report puts Toyota’s market share at 43.5% last month. …

  • VolkswagenPH launches Child Safety Initiative
    VolkswagenPH launches Child Safety Initiative

    Volkswagen Philippines just  launched the VW Child Safety Initiative (CSI) campaign which aims to support child safety on Philippine roads at the just concluded Manila International Auto Show (MIAS). The World Health Organization’s road safety facts show about 1.24 million die each year globally as a result of vehicle related accidents. Child restraint systems like child seats and booster seats also reduce risk for children by about 70% for infants and upto 80% for small children. This …

  • Pacquiao pleads for Indonesia to spare death row Filipina
    Pacquiao pleads for Indonesia to spare death row Filipina

    World boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao took time out Monday from final preparations for his $400 million megafight with Floyd Mayweather to plead for the life of a Filipina on death row in Indonesia. Pacquiao, a national hero in the Philippines, added his voice to a chorus of global opposition led by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to the executions of a group of eight foreign drug convicts, including compatriot Mary Jane Veloso. The eight-division world champion, who will face …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options