A THAI COURT found a webmaster liable for online comments made by other people in a website she was administering, and imposed on her a one year prison term and a $1,000 fine.

In a report released by the Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA), a network of media organizations in southeast Asia, Ms. Chiranuch Premchaiporn was found guilty of violating the Computer Crimes Act of 2007 for failing to delete comments that were deemed defamatory to the Thai monarchy.

Chiranuch was given a one year prison sentence and a 30,000 Baht fine ($1,000) for violating the CCA, “which mandates website hists to delete illegal content,” SEAPA reported in a bulletin sent out to member organizations. The Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism is a founding member of the SEAPA.

The judge however reduced both the prison sentence and the fine to eight months imprisonment and 20,000 Baht fine. In addition, Judge Kampol Rungrat suspended Chiranuch’s sentence by one year, “subject to good behaviour of Chiranuch and the fact that she has not been convicted of any prior crime.”

SEAPA reports that the charges against Chiranuch were “based on 10 posts in the online forum which violated section 112 of the Penal Code, prohibiting insults, threats, and defamation against the king, queen, royal heir, and regent.” Thailand has very strict laws against any actions or words directed against the Thai monarchy.

While Chiranuch herself had nothing to do with the offending posts, the court ruled that she had the responsibility to monitor the content of the online forum.

SEAPA executive director Gayathry Venkiteswaran said the verdict “carried serious implications.”

“The judgement sends a chilling message to service providers that they should not only monitor content of their sites but take full responsibility over their arbitrary judgements on what kinds of contents are safe for public consumption,” Gayathry said.


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