“Prachatai gives voice to democracy.”Free speech on trial in Thailand-day 10

Freedom Against Censorship Thailand

“Prachatai gives voice to democracy.”

Nine court days beginning on February 4th were spent hearing from minions of the forces of darkness assembled by the prosecution to testify against Prachatai webmaster Chiranuch Premchaiporn. Remarkably in the 21st century, perhaps even in Thailand, 11 bureaucrats and police spoke up against free speech.

Chiranuch faces 20 years in prison for ten charges of lèse majesté under the Computer Crimes Act for comments users posted to a public Web forum police say were not removed promptly enough to suit the law.

Defence testimony started this morning, calling two witnesses highly respected in the community, both of whom co-founded the Foundation for Community Educational Media in 2004. FCEM is the civil society umbrella organisation governing Prachatai’s independent news website.

Jon Ungpakorn served as the first chair of FCEM. Jon is also a 2005 recipient of the Ramon Magsaysay Award, considered Asia’s Nobel Prize.

Jon was also elected to the Thai Senate, serving from 2004 to 2006. He currently serves as chair of the working group on lèse majesté in the subcommittee on civil and political rights of the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand.

Jon testified that he started Prachatai as an independent balance to Thai mainstream media. Prachatai’s four objectives are 1) To provide the Thai public with access to reliable news and information relevant to developing and strengthening the democratic functions of Thai civil society, 2) to focus news coverage on the problems, concerns, activities and accomplishments of local communities and civil society movements and organisations, 3) to strive for freedom and independence of Thai news media and 4) to promote active public participation in Thai news media.

Witness testimony disclosed that mainstream media reported on elite political leaders but Prachatai reported on issues affecting the poor, the marginalised and underprivileged. Jon became acquainted with Chiranuch during their collaboration in campaigns to support people with HIV/AIDS during 1991 and 1992. She became his natural choice for news director of Prachatai as an honest journalist with integrity. Continue reading ““Prachatai gives voice to democracy.”Free speech on trial in Thailand-day 10”