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Veteran journalist Pravit Rojanaphruk accused of sedition in Thailand

Thai columnist Pravit Rojanaphruk poses for a photograph while being called to report to the ruling military along with other journalists in Bangkok, 25 May 2014
Thai columnist Pravit Rojanaphruk poses for a photograph while being called to report to the ruling military along with other journalists in Bangkok, 25 May 2014

AP Photo

This statement was originally published on cpj.org on 3 August 2017.

Authorities in Thailand should cease harassing Pravit Rojanaphruk and should drop any criminal proceedings against him for his writing, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Pravit, a columnist at Khaosod English who will be honored with CPJ's International Press Freedom Award this year, told CPJ that he learned late on July 31 that he is accused of sedition for five posts he had written on Facebook.

Pravit wrote on Facebook that the deputy superintendent of the police's Technology Crime Suppression Division informed the journalist of the accusations against him. Pravit told CPJ that the official did not indicate which specific posts police deemed objectionable. The journalist, who has not yet been formally charged, must report to police on August 8 to formally hear the accusation.

"Thai authorities should stop threatening Pravit Rojanaphruk for his writing," CPJ Asia Program Coordinator Steven Butler said from Washington, D.C. "The threat to charge a critical journalist with sedition charges for his Facebook posts shows just how badly press freedom has deteriorated in Thailand under military rule."

Under article 116 of Thailand's Criminal Code, sedition charges carry a maximum sentence of seven years in prison. If charged and convicted, Pravit could be sentenced to seven years in prison for each Facebook post, for a total of 35 years. He could also face parallel criminal charges under the Computer Crime Act for disseminating seditious materials online, which carries maximum penalties of five years for each post, potentially adding up to an additional 25 years behind bars.

Thailand's attorney general must approve sedition charges before cases move to trial.

CPJ last month announced that Pravit will be one of four recipients of its 2017 International Press Freedom Award, with which the organization each year honors exemplary and courageous reporting. Military authorities have singled out Pravit for harassment since seizing power in a May 2014 coup.

Days after the military's takeover, Pravit was summoned and detained incommunicado for a week. In September 2015, he was again summoned to a military base, where he was interrogated for more than six hours, then blindfolded, driven for more than an hour to a house with blocked-out windows, and held incommunicado by plainclothes military officials.

Upon his release two days later without charge, military officials threatened to freeze his bank account if he continued to criticize the regime, he told CPJ at the time. As a condition of his release, he was forced to sign a pledge that he would not become involved in any activities opposing military rule.

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