Thailand: Universal Periodic Review highlights threats to free expression

Thailand: Universal Periodic Review highlights threats to free expression - Digital

H.E. Thani Thongphakdi, Permanent Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Thailand. Photo by UN DRR.

In Wednesday’s 39th Session of the Working Group of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), Thailand received recommendations from 106 States, urging action to improve the human rights situation in the country. These include recommendations regarding the protection of freedom of expression, access to information, peaceful assembly, and digital rights. Thailand must now decide whether to accept these recommendations and commit to implementing them before its next review.

In its UPR submission ARTICLE 19 addressed three key threats to expression in Thailand: restrictions on the right to protest, lèse-majesté proceedings, and criminal defamation prosecutions. In a second joint submission, ARTICLE 19, Manushya Foundation, AccessNow, and the ASEAN Regional Coalition to #StopDigitalDictatorship raised concerns about the proliferation of threats to digital rights in the country. Recommendations were delivered orally on all of these issues during Thailand’s third UPR. 18 recommendations were made urging Thailand to respect the right to protest; Thailand was recommended by 12 States to end lèse-majesté proceedings or reform the lèse-majesté provision in Thailand’s penal code; four recommendations were made regarding Thailand’s criminalisation of defamation and the use of strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPPs); and digital rights were raised in nine recommendations.

David Diaz-Jogeix, ARTICLE 19’s Senior Director of Programmes, said:

“We welcome the recommendations made by States on freedom of expression and the acknowledgement that Thailand must do more to protect human rights, in particular in the digital sphere. We urge Thailand to accept these important recommendations and ensure acceptance is followed by meaningful and effective implementation to address human rights challenges in the country.”

“The UPR presents a unique opportunity for Thailand to demonstrate its commitment to the right to freedom of expression. These recommendations must be acted on with urgency through concrete reforms to prevent the continued use of repressive legal provisions to silence human rights defenders and journalists and punish and deter protesters. If Thailand does not heed these recommendations, self-censorship will become more rampant and an atmosphere of fear will stymie public participation.”

For more information

David Diaz-Jogeix, Senior Director of Programmes, [email protected].