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Reporters Without Borders is organising a cyber-demonstration on the Internet on 9 February to call for the release of Australian writer Harry Nicolaides, who is serving a three-year prison sentence on a lese majeste charge for referring briefly to the monarchy in a novel set in Thailand. He has been held since 31 August 2008 in Bangkok.
“Nicolaides has been treated unfairly and the sentence is disproportionate,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Not only were the comments in his novel restrained but he also received permission to publish it in Thailand. We call for his release and we urge all Internet users to do the same by demonstrating outside a virtual version of Bangkok’s royal palace.”
Arrested on 31 August, Nicolaides was sentenced on 19 January to three years in prison for briefly alluding to the love-life of an unnamed “Thai prince” in his 2005 novel “Verisimilitude,” of which only 50 copies were ever printed.
Nicolaides is not the only victim of Thailand’s archaic lese majeste legislation. Since the new government took office in December, many punitive measures had been ordered in the king’s name in order to silence criticism. The Internet is heavily censored and anyone commenting on the royal family is liable to threatened with a lese majeste prosecution.
At least 2,700 websites were blocked in the space of a month in the king’s name and around 10 people have been threatened after being accused of insulting the monarchy.
Reporters Without Borders is issuing a report on 9 February giving its findings as regards the violations of freedom of expression that have been carried out in the king’s name since last autumn. Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Jean-François Julliard will also address this message to King Rama IX with the aim of informing him about the censorship and arrests being carried out in his name:
“Your Majesty, we humbly appeal to you to use your power and authority to obtain the withdrawal of the charges brought against Jonathan Head, Giles Ji Ungpakorn, Sulak Sivaraksa, Jakrapob Penkair, Suwicha Thakor, Chotisak Onsoong and Jitra Korchadej and to grant Harry Nicolaides a royal pardon.”
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