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International Publishers Meet with Thai Prime Minister

A group of leading publishers and editors from around the world have met with the Thai Prime Minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, to discuss how a free press could be the cornerstone of a flourishing Thai democracy.

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Twenty-two publishers and editors engaged in a free flowing discussion with the Prime Minister at Government House in Bangkok on Tuesday as part of the World Newspaper Congress and World Editors Forum, organised by the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA).

The delegation called on the Prime Minister to lead a meaningful dialogue with members of Parliament, the judiciary and citizens to eliminate misuse of the country's "lèse majesté" laws, which criminalises criticism of the King and royal family and has been used to jail journalists.

"Thailand has a thriving media scene, but we are concerned about the misuse of lèse majesté laws," Thomas Brunegard, newly elected President of WAN-IFRA, and Chairman of the Stampen Group in Sweden, told the Prime Minister.

Mr Brunegard and Erik Bjerager, President of the World Editors Forum, presented the Prime Minister with a letter expressing concern over the law, citing a recent prison sentenced of ten years handed down to Somyot Pruksakasemuk, former editor of the magazine The Voice of Taksin in January 2013.

Mr Bjerager, Editor-in-chief of Denmark's Kristeligt Dagblad, pointed out that the lèse majesté laws stifle Thailand's otherwise strong democracy and lead to self censorship amongst those critical of members of the royal family and others who hold positions of authority.

"What surprises WAN-IFRA and the international community is that Thailand's press freedom ranking is so low, and deserves to be better given Thailand is an open country", he said.

Prime Minister Shinawatra said that her government tried to respect freedom of the press and she did not want people to misuse the law, which was there to protect the monarchy as an important institution of Thai culture.

A 2012 report by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Thailand stated that the "enforcement of Article 112 of the Code of Criminal Law stipulates a punishment that is not proportional to the offence, limits discretion of courts in determining suitable punishment, lacks clarity in the boundaries and scope of the law, and still provides opportunities for any individual to make accusations and process with a case". The report said the law was easily used as a tool for political benefit.

Former WAN-IFRA president Jacob Mathew called on the Thai government to do everything in its power to release all journalists who were jailed under the law.

The Prime Minister invited WAN-IFRA to participate in future discussions as representatives of the global press on the Thai constitution.

In addition to Messrs. Mathew, Brunegård and Bjerager, the WAN-IFRA delegation included:

Jayme Sirotsky, RBS Group, Brazil; Margaret Boribon, Les Journaux Francophone Belges, Belgium; Markku Mantila, Kaleva OY, Finland; Wolfgang Krach, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Germany; Javier Garza, El Siglo, Mexico; Zaffar Abbas, Dawn, Pakistan; Javier Moreno, El Pais, Spain; Patrick Daniel, Singapore Press Holdings, Singapore; Andrew Holden, The Age, Australia; Pichai Chuensuksawadi, Post Publishing, Thailand; Robin Hu, South China Morning Post, Hong Kong; Leak Kustia, Jawa Pos, Indonesia; Barbie Atienza, Manila Bulletin, Philippines; Sandy Prjeto-Romualdez, Philippine Inquirer, Philippines; DD Purkayastha, ABP Pte Ltd, India; Mohd Azlan Abdullah, New Straits Times, Malaysia; Jeongdo Hong, JoongAng Media Network, Korea; William Adamopolous, Forbes Media, Singapore; Vincent Peyrègne, WAN-IFRA; Thomas Jacob, WAN-IFRA; and Alison Meston, WAN-IFRA.

www.wan-ifra.org

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