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Thailand's lese majesty laws criticised

Reported by AAP
Monday, June 3, 2013
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Thailand's lese majesty law has created a "climate of fear" that runs counter to the principles of press freedom, an international media gathering has been told.

"The world is astonished to find that the media does not enjoy unfettered freedom in this land of the free," said Jacob Mathew, president of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers.

Speaking at the 65th annual World Newspaper Congress in Bangkok on Monday, Mathew slammed the legislation that makes it illegal to criticise the royal family.

"The misuse of the law has created a climate of fear," Mathew said, acknowledging that Thailand's level of press freedom exceeded that of many Asian countries.

There has been a dramatic increase in the prosecution of lese majesty cases over the past six years of political turmoil, when the institution of the monarchy has become a focal point for deep divisions between the established order and rival forces.

"The problem with Article 112 is that any individual, private or public, can take a lese majesty legal case against anyone who they believe has committed a lese majesty act," Mathew said.

The law provides for maximum 15-year jail sentences.

Critics have called for amendments to allow screening of cases to prevent abuse for political reasons.

King Bhumibol Adulyadej, 85, himself criticised the law during a speech in 2005, saying "the king can do wrong", and "must also be criticised".

02/10/2014 10:19Sydney, Australia. 2 October,2014
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