Thai version  SR FOE PR Thailand 150401 – Thai (1)

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UN expert dismayed over Thai leader’s intimidating statements against
freedom of the press

GENEVA (1 April 2015) – United Nations expert on freedom of expression
David Kaye today urged the Government of Thailand to unequivocally distance
itself from the Thai’s leader intimidating statements against freedom of
the press, and take immediate measures to allow space for debate and
freedom of expression.

General Prayuth Chan-ocha, the leader of the coup that deposed the elected
government of Thailand and assumed powers as Prime Minister in 2014, has
said recently that journalists who criticize him or ‘causes divisions’
could be subjected to execution, and that he enjoys ‘the power to close
down the media, arrest people, order for people to be shot.’

“I condemn General Prayuth’s statements categorically,” the UN Special
Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of
opinion and expression stressed. “After a year of killings and terrible
violence against journalists worldwide, such statements are simply
outrageous”.

The Special Rapporteur noted that he receives reports from all over the
world about attacks, killings and record numbers of journalists imprisoned,
“designed to silence criticism and deny citizens the right of access to
information.”

“Journalists of all kinds perform one of the most fundamental tasks in a
democratic society, throwing light on whether and how Governments behave in
accordance with the rule of law or engage in corruption and human rights
abuses,” he said. “Intimidation of journalists is by definition an attack
on the public’s right to know.”

“There is no sense that General Prayuth spoke in jest,” the expert said.
“But even if he did, the idea that the killing of journalists – let alone
the shutting down of media in light of criticism – can be a laughing matter
is reprehensible.”

The Special Rapporteur stated that Thailand should take immediate steps to
lift the nationwide imposition of martial law, while expressing strong
concerns about possible invocation of section 44 of the Interim
Constitution that would further provide General Prayuth an unlimited
authority to issue legislative, executive or judicial order.

“Freedom of expression and independent journalism, uninhibited by fear of
reprisals, contribute to public debate and are essential for building
inclusive societies and democracies,” Mr. Kaye said. “This includes the
right of everyone’s to express criticism of public authorities.”

“Not only Governments and public officials should exhibit respect for the
role of journalists, but actually should publicly condemn all forms of
threats and attacks against journalists at the highest political level and
ensure no one is subject to intimidations,” the human rights expert
stressed.

The Special Rapporteur also expressed concerned with the increasing arrests
and detentions under lese majesté law and Computer Crime Act, and called
for an end to the criminalization of dissenting opinions. “This is
particularly crucial now at the moment of drafting the new Constitution,
which will shape the future of the country,” the expert concluded.

ENDS

David Kaye (USA) was appointed as Special Rapporteur on the promotion and
protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression in August 2014
by the United Nations Human Rights Council. Learn more, log on to:
http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/FreedomOpinion/Pages/OpinionIndex.aspx

The UN Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special
Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest
body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights, is the general name of
the independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms of the Human Rights
Council that address either specific country situations or thematic issues
in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary
basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work.
They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their
individual capacity.

UN Human Rights, country page – Thailand:
http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/AsiaRegion/Pages/THIndex.aspx

For further information and media requests, please contact Marcelo Daher
(+41 22 917 9431 / mdaher@ohchr.org) or write to freedex@ohchr.org

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 /
xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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