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RSF demands the Thai authorities drop charges against two journalists

Following the arrest of Nutthaphol Meksobhon, a Prachatai reporter, and photographer Natthaphon Phanphongsanon, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) issued a statement calling for the Thai authorities to drop the charges against them and to end harassment of journalists.

Nutthaphol Meksobhon (left) and Natthaphon Phanphongsanon (right) speaking to reporters after being granted bail.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the Thai public prosecutor's office to immediately drop the charges brought against two Thai journalists, who face up to 7 years in prison for documenting graffiti painted criticising the lèse-majesté law on a temple in the capital city last year.

They face up to seven years in prison for doing their job. Thai journalists Nutthaphol Meksobhon, a reporter for the independent news website Prachatai, and Natthaphon Phanphongsanon, a freelance photographer, have been charged with "collaborating in the vandalism of a historical site". The case relates to their publication of a report on graffiti painted by a political activist on the wall of a temple in March 2023, that displayed an anarchist symbol and crossed out the number 112, related to the lese-majeste law.

The two journalists were released on bail on 14 February 2024 after spending a night in custody in the capital of Thailand, Bangkok. They are accused of violating the Cleanliness Act and the Ancient Monuments Act, for which they face a maximum sentence of seven years in prison and a fine of 700,000 baht (18,000 euros). No date has been announced for their upcoming trial.

“Charging journalists with vandalism when they were simply reporting on facts appears to be a ploy by the Thai authorities to dissuade them from reporting on criticism of the monarchy. We urge the government to drop these absurd charges and stop harassing journalists reporting on issues related to the monarchy," said Cédric Alviani, RSF Asia-Pacific Bureau Director

In Thailand, the crime of lese-majeste is regularly used to imprison voices critical of the monarchy. This provision is vaguely defined by Article 112 of the Thai Penal Code, which provides for a maximum sentence of 15 years imprisonment for anyone who "defames, insults or threatens the King, the Queen, or the Heir-apparent".

Thailand is ranked 106th out of 180 countries in the 2023 RSF World Press Freedom Index, up 34 places from 2020.

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