FCCT statement on charging of Prachatai journalist

13 07 2016

As readers will know, Taweesak Kerdpoka, a journalist with Prachatai was arrested and charged in Ratchaburi. He was detained after the police searched a car of student activists and found copies of New Democracy Movement’s booklet which provides information that opposes the junta on the draft constitution. Taweesak had hitched a ride with the students.

They are apparently charged with violations against the military dictatorship’s ridiculous and draconian Referendum Act that allows the junta to repress all views that are not its own on its charter and the illegitimate referendum on it.

His arrest led to junta thugs – police and military – showing up at Prachatai’s office and searching it, coming up empty-handed.

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand has issued a statement on the arrest and charging of Taweesak. PPT reproduces it in full:fcctlogo2 - Copy

The professional membership of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand (FCCT) is concerned at the detention and charging of Taweesak Kerdpoka, a journalist with the independent news website Prachatai.

Mr Taweesak was arrested on July 10 while covering the activities of the New Democracy Movement (NDM), one of the few groups which publicly criticise the current government. He was released on bail but has been charged under the government’s Referendum Act, which outlaws criticism of the draft constitution, a document that Thais will vote on in a referendum on August 7.

The NDM activists had travelled to the central Thai district of Ban Pong to support another group of 18 activists who had been summoned by police. Mr Taweesak accompanied them from Bangkok to Ban Pong in the same car as part of his reporting assignment.

Police stopped and searched the vehicle and said they found pamphlets and stickers that they alleged were in breach of the Referendum Act. The documents belonged to the NDM activists who have been calling on Thais to reject the proposed charter. Prachatai director Ms Chiranuch Premchaiporn said the documents did not belong to Mr Taweesak.

All were arrested, charged and later freed on bail, but face up to ten years in jail if convicted. Prachatai’s offices were subsequently searched by police officers on July 12.

It is not unusual for journalists to accompany or travel with newsmakers and interviewees. As a reporter covering human and environmental rights, Mr Taweesak was merely doing his job.

The FCCT is concerned that arresting and charging him sets an alarming precedent for media freedom, and calls on Thai authorities to withdraw the charges against him.