Court says YouTube not obligated to control content
Agence France-Presse: May 30, 2012
A Paris court on Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit against YouTube filed by French television, saying the video-sharing website was not obligated to control content of uploaded material.
A Paris court dismissed a lawsuit against YouTube filed by French television, saying the video-sharing website was not obligated to control content of uploaded material.
YouTube is “a priori not responsible for the content of videos posted on its website” and “is under no obligation to control the content of videos posted online,” said the ruling by the Tribunal de Grande Instance, a civil court that adjudicates major cases.
The court ordered the national private TF1 channel and its affiliates, which had sued YouTube, to pay 80,000 euros ($100,000) in court costs.
TF1 had sued YouTube in 2008 after various videos were posted on the website, including television shows and interviews to which the channel said it had commercial rights.
The channel had accused YouTube of unfair competition, saying it had profitted from the videos at TF1′s expense.
The court rejected the argument, saying the channel failed to show any loss of sales.
YouTube France hailed the decision, with chief Christophe Muller saying the ruling “represents a victory for the Internet and for all those who use it to exchange ideas and information.”
“This decision defends the right of innovation on content platforms generated by users, allowing them to do even more to help French artists and creators to reach new audiences in France and abroad,” he said.
A spokesman for TF1 said the channel was surprised by the decision and was studying options to appeal the ruling.
Google bought YouTube in 2006 for $1.65 billion.
May 23, 2012
FACT is not a fan of the world’s biggest timewaster. We’re all about no censorship in a world which respects your privacy. In reality, Facebook begs the question in The Atlantic: “What’s the value of a billion people watching each other?” Here at FACT, we worry about Facebook’s impact on real relationships and its innate creation of surveillance. Of course, we should be aware such a “free” service is not really free; Facebook, like Google, is targeting your money.
FACT’s tech team set us up an automatic Twitter feed for postings during Thailand’s Great Youtube Blackout of 2006. The first 140 characters of each new FACT posting are sent to FACT’s current 650 subscribers along with a shortened URL to a permalink to FACT’s complete article if you wish to read further. Subscribe here: http://twitter.com/facthai.
Shortly thereafter, FACT made email subscriptions for every posting available to FACT readers. Freedom in your Inbox!
This week brought news that there are more Facebook users in Bangkok—9,294,140–than anywhere else on the planet. All Thailand has 14,035,780 Facebookers, 16th in the world. 21.14% of Thais use Facebook, however, that number includes the 80.27% who are connected to the Internet. That number doubled since 2011. Incidentally, these figures must be drastically underrated as they are only for Facebook users over 18. Do you know a teenager who’s not on Facebook.
Today, thanks to intrepid journalist Andrew MacGregor Marshall, FACT is available to readers on Facebook, spreading Freedom far and wide.
Freedom Against Censorship Thailand (FACT) is still the only hard-hitting, comprehensive news aggregator for censorship issues in Thailand and globally in English and Thai.
Freedom on Facebook: http://facebook.com/facthai. Do you “like” Freedom? Wanna be FACT’s friend?
NO CENSORSHIP! NO COMPROMISE!
Freedom Against Censorship Thailand (FACT)
Freedom’s just another word
Bangkok Post: May 7, 2012
The constitution supposedly guarantees that every Thai “shall enjoy the liberty to express his or her opinion, make speeches, write, print, publicise and make expression by other means”. It also says that writers and broadcasters employed by the mass media “shall enjoy their liberties to present news and express their opinions”.
Unfortunately, neither of these articles of the supreme law is actually true. Thailand is still a country where even professional journalists are killed for trying to present news and opinions. And the rest of the world has very little respect for the country when it comes to press freedom.
Last Thursday was World Press Freedom Day. There was no acknowledgement of this by agencies and ministries charged with defending constitutional rights. The media itself saw no reason to celebrate. But the head of the United Nations and journalism groups in other countries did take note of the day. And most reports on World Press Freedom Day noted the low international regard for Thailand on the issue.
Reporters are increasingly at risk, for a number of reasons. Thailand is one of the few countries with the ignominious reputation of witnessing journalists being killed regularly without any ongoing war or violent conflict. There are only five such countries around the world _ the others being Brazil, India, Indonesia and the Philippines.
On Jan 12, a gunman in Phuket shot and killed the freelance reporter Wisut Tangwittayaporn, a familiar figure known as “Ae Inside” because he was a tenacious newsman. To their credit, Phuket police not only pursued the case, but actually indicted three suspects including the alleged killer and his motorcycle driver, both of whom are still at large.
The third suspect has been charged as the mastermind. He is Assadakorn “Pod” Seedokbuab, 48, who is not simply another influential Phuket figure, but one of the most influential. Mr Assadakorn, who is on bail for 3.4 million baht despite the serious charges, is vice-president of the Phuket Chamber of Commerce. He is the owner of a Phuket TV station, KPP Cable.
Police have not said why they think Mr Assadakorn arranged to kill Wisut. It is no secret in Phuket, however, that Wisut was about to release more stories about the very troubled housing market in Phuket. The real estate industry in the province has seen violence before, including other murders. We may never know exactly what Wisut was onto, but no one doubts it was his reporting that caused his violent death.
Two entirely separate surveys this year have rated Thailand’s press freedom. Reporters Without Borders says the country ranks 137th in the world, with 61.5 out of a possible 100 freedom points. The US-based Freedom House gives Thailand 62 out of 100, good enough to tie the country with Libya, Liberia and Zambia in 132nd place in the world. Both drolly comment that Thailand’s press freedom actually improved because of the end of the 2010 emergency decree invoked during the Bangkok violence.
This is a terrible performance by a country striving for real democracy. Successive governments have not only failed to protect press freedom, but have actually encouraged censorship with actions such as appointing the ICT ministry as official internet censor [FACT: 878,196 web pages blocked as of TODAY!]. A democratic government does not make such choices. Our authorities must support the constitution on freedom of information, or be branded as opponents of a free press.
May 14, 2012
[FACT comments: It’s a Sisyphean task to keep 1.34 billion people happy, particularly when you want to control every aspect of their lives, from birth to death. However, in this case, we think “Communism” is just a label, a bogeyman who no longer has any power. A Constitution, including protections for human rights and civil liberties, and ending govt censorship, is a fine first step.]
Beijing Leaders Considering End of Communist Rule
By Li Heming
Epoch Times: May 1, 2012
|Chinese delegates applaud the result of a vote during the Chinese Communist Party Congress at the Great Hall of the People on October 21, 2007, in Beijing. (Andrew Wong/Getty Images)||
According to a high-level source in Beijing, key leaders in the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) Politburo have reached four points of consensus that will be announced on or around the 18th Party Congress. The tenor of the decision is that China will take the path of democracy. The news has been circulated hurriedly in Beijing.
According to the source, the four points of consensus are:
1. People from all walks of life, political parties, and social organizations should send representatives to form a preparatory committee for a new constitution. They will draft a new constitution that protects the rights of citizens to freely form associations and political parties.
2. It will be announced that the Chinese Communist Party has finished its historical mission as the ruling party. Party membership will need to be re-registered, with the free choice to re-enter the Party or leave it.
3. “June 4,” Falun Gong, and all groups who have been wrongly persecuted in the process of devoting themselves to China’s realization of democracy will be redressed and receive compensation.
4. The military will be nationalized.
The claim from the source cannot be verified, but it is said to be a matter of discussion among high-level leaders. The source also said that a democratic party has already been formed in the Beijing Academy of Sciences, and that over 30 scholars in the Academy have gotten involved in the movement, forming a “Chinese Scientists’ Liberal Democratic Party.”
The four points of consensus are supposed to be announced on or around the 18th Party Congress, according to the source. The congress is supposed to be held this fall, in October or November, though there have been rumors that it will be postponed amidst the current political uncertainty associated with Bo Xilai’s downfall.
Shi Cangshan, an independent China analyst in Washington responded to the news: “The domino effect set off by the Wang Lijun incident is still going on, and the Party’s behind-the-scenes operations are being exposed.”
Shi said that the reason Party leaders would want to announce four consensuses such as the above is to take the initiative on its inevitable decline. “The group that has engaged in these massive persecutions of the Chinese people, including the persecution of Falun Gong, is being exposed, and this is deeply implicated with the demise of the CCP. Better that they take the initiative, which will benefit themselves and the world.”
Read original Chinese article.
The Epoch Times publishes in 35 countries and in 19 languages. Subscribe to our e-newsletter.
April 4, 2012
[CJ Hinke of FACT comments: This is, of course, an issue close to me as some foreign residents of Thailand have assaulted my right to criticise injustice in my adopted country. Two websites, ThaiVisa and Orient Expat, have permanently banned my posts on this basis.]
Asian Age: March 19, 2012
In 1971, at a student rally in the US, I was part of an anti-war demonstration against the US? involvement in Vietnam. An enraged group of some 20,000 people, with placards of ?No War? and ?Get out of Vietnam?, we shouted slogans against the US government and heckled the occupants of the White House. I carried a ?Nepalm Pentagon? sign amongst many other foreign students who also opposed the war. As a resident in the US, I had every right to raise my voice, even though I was ineligible for the draft or to vote. Freedom to protest was not confined to American citizens.
India, however, denies democratic rights not just to foreigners in the country but also to its own nationals. While Indian NGOs are regularly targeted for harassment by the Indian government, Sonnteg Reiner Hermann, a German on a tourist visa in India, was recently deported by the home ministry for participating in the anti-nuclear protest in Tamil Nadu. Defending his deportation decision, home minister P. Chidambaram said, ?There was information to show that Hermann had links with the anti-Koodankulam stir?, and that ?was not consistent with a person who had come here on a tourist visa?.
Is a tourist visa only for viewing monuments and shopping? If so, could Mr Hermann have been jailed for not visiting the Taj Mahal, or not buying trinkets? Should tourist itineraries be approved by the home ministry before a visa is issued? Should then foreigners on a work visa even be allowed to visit monuments?
Within the law, unless there are clear signs of promoting anti-national and seditious activities, a tourist is understandably free to participate in any activity in the country, except employment.
Protest is a singularly democratic method for any government to soften its shrill and dogmatic line, and is tolerated in most democracies around the world. The cross-border protest against Dow Chemicals? sponsorship of London Olympics is a case in point. Should Britain, like India, outlaw these demonstrations and deport demonstrators for embarrassing one of its top sponsors, and that too for an incident that Britain has nothing to do with.
It is well known that the nuclear debate in Europe and the propagation of new power plants by some countries there garnered massive opposition from Greenpeace and local parties, enough to alter the thinking of some governments. The protesters were an international coalition whose remarkable anti-nuke cause was without boundaries. As a result of their efforts, almost 40 per cent of Germany?s energy needs are today met by alternate sources.
In India, the problem lies inherently in an archaic nationalism. A couple of years ago, a tired Sania Mirza after a gruelling match, inadvertently stretched her feet to relax, towards the Indian flag. Before she could retract, unknown to her, a cameraman had snapped a picture of her ?unpatriotic? gesture and published it in a newspaper. At a rural school in Uttar Pradesh, a young girl who didn?t know the lyrics of Vande Mataram was punished by the teacher. More recently, the heavy hand of the Indian government stretched beyond the borders of Ukraine, refusing visas to young women tourists believed ? erroneously ? to be prostitutes. So outrageous was the presumption that Femen, a politically savvy protest group of young topless women, raised a stink at the Indian embassy, stomping on the Indian flag and demanding an apology. Instead of resolving this situation diplomatically, the embassy officials were so enraged at the desecration of the flag that they filed criminal charges against the women with the local police. The reaction from the topless women was even more telling. Many among them asked openly, ?Is India a democratic country? If so, why can?t it tolerate protest??
The answer to their first question is a resounding ?maybe?. Antiquated norms in India are the result of having accepted and wholeheartedly embraced old colonial ideals as our own, and an unwillingness to remove moral policing from the judiciary and politics. As society changed, rules and legal codes continued to change in England. But India has remained steadfast in its adherence to old foreign ideas in bureaucracy, civic regulation and other matters of governance. Moreover, social and caste forces today not only make generations unsure of each other but also create new barriers of misunderstanding. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the broader definitions of individual freedoms ? the freedom to speak freely, make sexual choices freely, use the flag or any other national symbol in personal expression, travel across borders, exchange ideas across the Internet, buy products online.
Much of this was not even possible in the 20th century. The state?s maintenance of personal, professional and national boundaries at the time was taken for granted. Today, of course, changes in technologies, social mores and instant communications have, for all intents and proposes, altered that. In a world so closely connected, the state?s imposition of its antiquated models calls for a fresh mandate. The hokey and trivial patriotism that had plagued an unconfident India of the 20th century will, hopefully, be dumped. Burning a flag or protesting across international borders can no longer be treated as a crime. The government?s recognition of a new reality will only bridge the growing divide between the state and the citizen. And protest is a crucial measure of the differences remaining between the two. Without it, we might as well vote for Hugo Chavez or Vladimir Putin. Or, for that matter, Manmohan Singh.
Gautam Bhatia, architect, artist and writer, has built extensively in India and the US
March 19, 2012
Stop C-30 and C-11!
The Conservative Party has introduced two pieces of legislation to Parliament that threaten the future of the Internet in Canada.
The Orwellian surveillance enabled by Bill C-30 combined with loss of rights as consumers and Internet users in Bill C-11 casts a dark shadow over the future of the Internet in Canada… Unless we fight this legislation! Whether you are a member of the NDP, Liberals, Greens, are a Pirate, or don’t vote, come out with us on March 24th and fight for our Internet freedom.
The first is the well known warrantless surveillance bill, also known as “lawful access”. It made headlines when Conservative MP Vic Toews told Liberal public safety critic Francis Scarpaleggia he could “either stand with us or with the child pornographers.” The ensuing backlash gave way to public humiliation of Toews on social media.
For a good summary on Lawful Access and why it is awful for Canada, we recommend this short documentary.
Full Text of Bill
This legislation would see Canadians treated like criminals by making it illegal to jailbreak your phone with the digital lock provisions, and by allowing up to $5000 in statutory damage fines for copyright infringement like downloading a movie or some music. Efforts to introduce Bill C-11 were also nearly completely driven driven by the same American entities that supported the Internet censorship legislation SOPA.
ACTA / TPP
The US copyright lobby is pushing for powers that include website blocking, Internet termination for unproven allegations of infringement, and huge threats for sites that host user-generated content (like YouTube) in addition to the most restrictive digital lock provisions in the world via international treaty. The decisions are made behind closed doors and without public input.
ACTA (The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement) is the result of long and secret negotiations between the United States copyright lobbyists, and unelected trade representatives to create a legal framework to safeguard the copyright monopoly against new technology. When a working draft leaked in 2008 to Wikileaks, it became clear the startling civil rights implications of the agreement. Recently, there have been large coordinated European protests against ACTA.
Similar provisions have been slipped into the TPP (trans-pacific partnership. The proposals have been accused of being excessively restrictive, providing intellectual property restraints beyond those in the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement and Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, and could limit developing countries’ access to affordable medication.
How can I help?
Sign these petitions:
How else you can help:
If your city isn’t confirmed on the list on this page, organize your own local demonstration for this day. Make a post on the Canada-wide page about your event. Contact the admins of any local pages to ask how you can help. We also need information (pamphlets, posters, etc.) created for distribution at these events. This information can be posted on the Canada-wide event page. Most importantly, spread word of this legislation! Educate others about how their Internet freedom is being taken from them and how they can fight it.
See Also: Pirate Party Privacy and Censorship Circumvention Solutions
As a response to warrantless surveillance Bill C-30, Bill C-11, SOPA, and all similar future legislation the Pirate Party of Canada is initiating Operation Electronic Leviathan. This operation aims to establish mass decentralized distribution of information on anonymity networks and encryption tools people can use to share files and chat anonymously and privately.
March 12, 2012
Did a Pirate TV Stream Save Lives During the Japan Tsunami?
Falkvinge on Infopolicy: March 10, 2012
One year ago this week, on March 11, 2011, Japan experienced its most devastating earthquake in over a thousand years. The quake brought a tsunami that killed tens of thousands and a nuclear meltdown that required the complete evacuation of several small towns.
It was the perfect crisis in which the world’s information network needed to be tested. The tsunami came only minutes after the quake, and the difference between life and death for those outrunning the tsunami was literally seconds. Those who heard about the tsunami needed to warn others as quickly as possible… but how to get those messages across? And how could people fleeing without televisions stay informed about aftershocks and evacuations?
Sankei News reports that only 17 minutes after the first vibrations of the earthquake, a middle school boy in Hiroshima started up a UStream channel to broadcast an illegal, pirate stream of NHK News. In Japan, these pirate streams are a serious offense, but the boy, whose mother survived the Hanshin earthquake of 1995, felt he had a moral duty to do whatever he could to help save people in Tohoku from the tsunami. Soon, thousands of Twitter users were linking to the stream.
Rather than shutting it down, at 5:20PM, the NHK’s official Twitter account linked to the pirate stream. The account’s operator told Sankei that “certainly I thought the link might get me fired, but I realized that if I could save even one life it was the right thing to do.” Indeed, nobody was fired; NHK gave UStream official approval to continue the stream at 6PM, and began free broadcasting directly to UStream at 9PM. Following the NHK’s lead, over the following days a total of twelve local and national TV stations in Japan streamed their emergency live news broadcasts on UStream. And it all started because of one teenage pirate.
Obviously, news stations can’t say they approve of piracy outright; now that there is no disaster, says NHK’s chief of technology, there is “no interest at all” in providing an Internet stream of their programming. But the humble president of NHK, Masayuki Matsumoto, confides that the next time a disaster happens they’ll “definitely react in a way appropriate to the circumstances.”
Source: Sankei News (Japanese).
Avery Morrow is a freelance writer specializing in history and Internet-related topics. He has worked as an intern in the U.S. Congress and with various political groups. He was born in the United States and currently lives in Japan.
March 5, 2012
Agence France-Presse: February 29, 2012
Israeli troops raided two Palestinian television stations in the West Bank city of Ramallah overnight, seizing computers and broadcasting equipment, employees told AFP on Wednesday.
The Israeli military confirmed the raids, saying the stations targeted had been broadcasting illegally, a charge rejected by the Palestinian telecommunications minister.
The two stations affected were Watan Television, a local private station, and Quds Educational Television, affiliated with the Palestinian Al-Quds University.
“They came at 2:00 am (0000 GMT) and took around 30 computers and all the transmitters. The station is totally shut down,” Watan’s editor in chief, Ali Daraghmeh, told AFP.
“One of our guards tried to stop the army, but they told him they had official orders to close the station.”
Haroun Abu Arra, director of Quds Educational TV, said troops raided his station shortly afterwards.
“At 3:00 am (0100 GMT), the Israeli army entered the television station’s office and took all the transmitters, and the station is now unable to broadcast,” he said.
Moammer Orabi, Watan’s director general, said there were no warnings before the raid took place.
“It was a surprise. We still don’t know why they confiscated the equipment and shut down the station, even though we work in areas belonging to the Palestinian Authority and we have a licence from them,” he said.
An Israeli military spokeswoman said the raids came after “multiple requests” from the Israeli communications ministry to the two stations to halt operations.
“IDF (Israel Defence Forces) soldiers accompanied an operation of the ministry of communications to close two pirate television station in Ramallah,” she said.
“This station significantly interrupts other legal broadcasting stations and interferes with aircraft communications.”
No one at the communications ministry was immediately available for comment.
But Palestinian telecommunications minister Mashour Abu Daqqa angrily rejected the claims, saying Israel had failed to make any official complaint through the proper channels to the Palestinian Authority.
“They are liars,” Abu Daqqa told AFP. “If there is any problem, we have an Israel-Palestinian coordination committee and we discuss any problems regarding frequencies all the time.
“We didn’t receive anything through this committee and we believe that the Israeli army wants to change realities on the ground, ignoring all the committees formed.”
Daqqa said the stations were both registered with the International Broadcasting Union and broadcast on legal frequencies.
They are both based in Ramallah, which lies within a part of the West Bank designated as under full Palestinian civil and security control. Israel carries out frequent raids in the area nonetheless.
The raids were condemned by Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad, who visited Watan’s offices after the raid, describing it as “a new and very dangerous Israeli escalation against the Palestinian Authority.”
Journalists said they would hold a demonstration in Ramallah’s central square later on Wednesday to protest against the raid.
February 18, 2012
The “NLA Sit-In” Trial of Ten Thai Human Rights Defenders
WE NEED YOU!
The defendants and their lawyers wish to invite international observers, observers from human rights and media rights organisations based in Thailand, and representatives from foreign embassies in Thailand to attend the trial to help ensure that they receive a fair hearing, as they believe that the charges against them and the possible penalties that they face are grossly disproportionate to their non-violent actions of civil disobedience against a legislature appointed by a military junta which was rushing through legislation affecting human rights and civil liberties just 11 days prior to a general parliamentary election.
The military coup government’s appointed lawmakers passed the worst of Thailand’s repressive legislation supporting censorship. First among them is the Computer Crimes Act 2007, the Printing Act, the Film Act, the Internal Security Act and more.
Media activist Supinya Klangnarong is co-founder of Freedom Against Censorship Thailand (FACT) and four other defendants are FACT petition signers as are many of the witnesses testifying for the defence. Please come to support them.
The most important dates for attending the trial are:
1) Tuesday, February 21st 2012 (morning and afternoon), which is the opening day for hearing witnesses at which the most important prosecution witnesses will be testifying , including former speaker of the National Legislative Assembly, Mr. Meechai Ruchupan, a notorious legal expert who has served a number of dictatorial regimes.
2) Tuesday, March 20th-23rd and Tuesday, 27th (morning and afternoon) during which the 10 defendants will be testifying in order (half-day each)
3) Wednesday, March 28th-30th, Tuesday, April 3rd-5th, Tuesday, April 10th 2012 during which prominent defence witnesses will be testifying
eg. Wednesday, 28th March (morning) Pravit Rojanaphruk (afternoon) Gothom Arya, Nirun Pitakwatchara
Thursday, 29th March (morning) Ubonrat Siriyuvasak
Friday, 30th March (morning) Vitit Muntarbhorn
Wednesday, 4th April (afternoon) Chaiwat Satha-Anand
Thursday, 5th April (morning) Kanit na Nakorn
Friday, 10th April (afternoon) Phra Phaisan Visalo
Tuesday, April 10th 2012 is expected to be the last day of the trial before day set for reading the verdict (not yet known)
From 21 February – 10 April 2012, ten prominent Thai NGO/ labour union/ human rights activists will be on trial at the Criminal Court, Rachadapisek Road, Bangkok on serious criminal charges relating to national security, public peace, and trespass with use of force arising from a mass sit-in staged in the lobby in front of the meeting chamber of the National Legislative Assembly on 12 December 2007. If found guilty of all charges, they could face prison sentences of up to 20 years.
The Defendants are:
1. Mr. Jon Ungphakorn, NGO and human rights activist
2. Mr. Sawit Keaw-wan, state enterprise union leader
3. Mr. Sirichai Maingam, state enterprise union leader
4. Mr. Pichit Chaimongkol, NGO and political activist
5. Mr. Anirut Khaosanit, farmers’ rights activist
6. Mr. Nasser Yeemha, NGO and political activist
7. Mr. Amnat Palamee, state enterprise union leader
8. Mr. Pairoj Polpetch, NGO and human rights activist
9. Ms. Saree Ongsomwang, NGO and consumer rights activist
10. Ms. Supinya Klangnarong, Freedom of expression and media reform activist
Collaborating to incite the public to violate the law through speech, writing, or other means outside the boundaries of constitutional rights or legitimate freedom of expression (Section 116 of the Criminal Code – maximum penalty of 7 years imprisonment); gathering in a group of 10 or more people, in the capacity of leaders or commanders, to threaten or to carry out an act of violence or to act in a way which causes a public disturbance (Section 215 of the Criminal Code – maximum penalty of 5 years imprisonment and/or fine of up to Baht 10,000); trespass with use of violence (Sections 362, 364, and 365 of the Criminal Code – maximum penalties of 5 years imprisonment and/or fines of up to Baht 10,000 under both Sections 362 and 364 as qualified under Section 365)
Trial Dates: (Tuesdays to Fridays)
a) Hearing witnesses for prosecution (Total 24 sessions)
February 21-24, 28-29 Morning session 09.00-12.00, Afternoon session 13.30-16.30
March 1- 2, 13-16, Morning session 09.00-12.00, Afternoon session 13.30-16.30
b) Hearing witnesses for defence (Total 24 sessions)
March 20-23, 27-30 Morning session 09.00-12.00, Afternoon session 13.30-16.30
April 3-5, 10 Morning session 09.00-12.00, Afternoon session 13.30-16.30
Following the military coup on 19 September 2006 and the suspension of the 1997 Constitution, the military council formed by the coup leaders established a “National Legislative Assembly” (NLA) to act as an interim unicameral legislature for enacting legislation until parliamentary elections were held under a new constitution. All members of the NLA were selected by the military council.
After the promulgation of the 2007 constitution on 24 August 2007, the NLA continued to function as the legislature, and during the last two months before the general parliamentary election of 23 December 2007, the NLA rushed through the passage of a number of extremely controversial laws affecting human rights, civil liberties, community rights, and social justice. This was done despite strong opposition and protests by many civil society groups. The most controversial of these was Internal Security Act, a law demanded by the military to allow them to hold special powers to deal with national security issues after the return to elected civilian government. Other controversial laws passing through the NLA included legislation on privatisation of state universities, water management, and state enterprises.
On 11-12 September 2007 the Thai NGO Coordinating Committee (NGO-COD) with Jon Ungphakorn (1st defendant) serving as Chair and Pairoj Polpetch (8th defendant) as Vice-Chair held a consultation involving a number of civil society networks and labour union leaders which ended with a public statement and press conference calling on the NLA to abandon consideration of 11 controversial bills considered to violate the rights, freedoms, and welfare of the public according to the 2007 Constitution.
On 26 September 2007, a delegation from NGO-COD and the Confederation of State Enterprise Labour Unions submitted an open letter to the NLA Speaker, Mr. Meechai Ruchupan at the parliament building.
On 29 November 2007, a mass demonstration was held outside the parliament building and grounds, demanding that the NLA immediately abandon consideration of the 11 controversial bills, requesting members of the NLA to consider resigning their office , and asking members of the public to sign a petition for the NLA to cease all legislative activities in view of the coming elections for a democratic parliament.
On 12 December 2007 another mass demonstration was held outside the parliament building and grounds, this time involving well over one thousand demonstrators. At around 11.00 a.m. over 100 demonstrators climbed over the metal fence surrounding the parliament building using make-shift ladders to enter the grounds of parliament. Then, around 50-60 demonstrators were able to push their way past parliamentary guards to enter the lobby in front of the NLA meeting chamber where the NLA was in session. They then sat down peacefully in concentric circles on the lobby floor. Negotiations with some members of the NLA and with a high-ranking police official ensued, until at around 12.00 noon the demonstrators were informed that the NLA meeting had been adjourned. The demonstrators then left the parliament building and grounds, returning to join the demonstrations outside the premises.
Further demonstrations were held outside the parliament building and grounds amidst tight police security on 19 December 2007. Despite all the protests, the NLA passed the Internal security Act which remains in force to this day. Some of the other controversial laws were also passed.
On 22 January 2008 the ten defendants were summoned by police to acknowledge a number of charges against them. Later prosecutors asked police to investigate further, more serious charges which were then brought against the defendants, while less serious charges such as using a loudspeaker without prior permission were dropped. The prosecution was submitted to the Criminal Court on 30 December 2010, and all the defendants were allowed to post bail by the court.
Further Sources of Information
1. Judicial proceedings against ten human rights defenders – FIDH (2008)
2. Concerns over legal proceedings against 10 human rights defenders – HRCP (2010)
3. English translation of Thai Criminal Code
1. Nakhon Chompoochart , Head of legal defence team firstname.lastname@example.org
2. Jon Ungphakorn, Defendant no. 1
The trial will be heard at Bangkok’s Criminal Court (San Aya) on Ratchadapisek Road near Lat Phrao MTR station, Exit 4.
WE URGE ALL READERS TO SPEND AT LEAST ONE MORNING OR AFTERNOON SESSION TO SUPPORT OUR FRIENDS AND FACT SIGNERS AND TO STAND UP FOR FREE SPEECH.
February 18, 2012
Internet freedom review with CJ Hinke
Prachatai: January 10, 2012
As a part of our ‘looking forward to 2012’ series, Prachatai interviewed CJ Hinke, freedom activist and founder of FACT – Freedom against Censorship Thailand – on the situation of freedom in Thailand, internet freedom in particular.
According to information from FACT and the research NGO iLaw – Internet Law Reform Dialogue, Thai government has since April 2010 blocked a total of 777,286 web pages (as of December 28, 2011) and spent a total of 950 million baht in two years on this operation alone. To sum up, each web page costs 1,210 baht of taxpayers’ money to block.
What is the trend and direction you see for internet freedom in Thailand for 2012, compared to 2011? Will it be bright or will it be doomed?
Well, in 2006 when we founded the Internet Freedom against Censorship in Thailand, censorship was not something that was talked in Thai society. No one was discussing this even in the universities. It was pretty much a closed topic. People really did not see that this censorship had very much impact on their lives. But as soon as we brought up the issue, it seemed like the whole topic had been dammed up in Thai minds and suddenly the flood gate was opened and everybody was talking about censorship. And it became a hot issue because at that time the military coup government ordered censorship of the internet.
So this is one of the things they considered to be most dangerous to their power, the internet, because the internet fosters participatory democracy, the discussion of public views. It forms a public conversation so we all get to talk to each other. The government is very afraid of that. Government is afraid of allowing us to talk to each other and that it’s going to destabilize their power base.
Now it did not take very long after that for the military coup government to block YouTube completely for 7 months and that further woke Thai people up to internet censorship. Following quickly after that, of course, was the banned book ‘The King Never Smiles’ by Paul Handley. It is interesting because the book is readily available online and the Thai government tried almost everything it can do to block the English version. However, Thai translations are all over the internet and none of them are ever banned, despite the fact that the Thai-American Joe Gordon was sentenced to prison for linking to that. And Joe Gordon’s case is very interesting to me because this is the first case in which the court expanded third-party intermediate liability to include such basic functions of the internet as hyper-linking. So originally he was charged with only two things: he was charged with hyper-linking to three chapters and the introduction to The King Never Smiles from his blog and he was charged of being the Norporchor USA’s webmaster. Now you might remember that only a few months earlier, before Joe’s arrest, Thantawut (Thaweewarodom) was also charged with being the Norporchor USA’s webmaster and given thirteen years. So who is the real webmaster? How can you charge two people for being the same thing at the same time? It’s completely ridiculous.
So by the time Joe Gordon got to the court, he was charged not with hyper-linking but he was charged with being ‘the translator’ of The King Never Smiles. So this was a very subtle shift by the government and it made it quite interesting to me. Let’s just say that hyper-linking to lèse majesté content is like repeating lèse majesté. Even if you didn’t create it, it is lèse majesté in itself. In order to determine that, you will have to read those three chapters and that introduction to know if there was any lèse majesté in it. You just can’t say, “well, The King Never Smiles is a bad book and therefore linking to it is lèse majesté”. That just doesn’t make sense. So essentially, the government is trying to flimflam us into a set of ‘false beliefs’ without actually looking at the facts.
Another good example of this in the court is that we’re not actually allowed to detail the substances of the charges. For example, in Chiranuch Premchaiporn’s trial, one of the messages contains the phrases ‘the blind father’ and ‘the blue whale’. One is suppose to be able to instantly determine that these refer to the King and Queen. Now I am very on top of this issue, I’ve got my finger on the pulse of the whole censorship and lèse majesté issue and that is not so obvious to me. So in fact, yes, the posters might have meant that but we can’t determine it. But it’s supposedly lèse majesté to repeat it. So in fact I think that we need to look at the actual substance of the charges. We can’t just say “Oh, this person sent four text messages and therefore they are guilty” but we can’t tell you what it is! That doesn’t make sense!
The rule of law is a precision machine. Laws have to be very precise or you end up putting the wrong people in jail or even the wrong people to death. So laws have to be extremely precise. And unless we are willing to evolve into a true democracy which is governed by the rule of law and government is willing to make full disclosure to the public, we don’t have a democracy here. So the danger in my reading of history, is that when countries slide towards dictatorship, they do so in an instant. The Khmer Rouge, maybe a couple of months. The military dictatorship in Burma, maybe at least six weeks. The fall of monarchy in Lao, three months.
So in fact I think what we are seeing here is a strikingly remarkable parallel to the fall of our neighbours to dictatorship. And so we look today at Burma opening up, in some small regard – they still have tens of thousands of political prisoners. When we look at Thailand and we are repeating the same mistakes, the rise of the military, and the cosiness of the government with the military, the government relying on the military as it did during the period of emergency powers when the government created the military agency CRES. So in fact we see reliance on the military. By giving the military more power, what that means is that you risk them taking over and you risk becoming a military state. I think that most Thai people are not even aware of that.
So the military in guidance is more obvious in Thailand than other countries, you think?
Yeah, very much so. The government is very careful not to do or say anything against the military and I think that they use the military as a big part of its power base. So in fact a lot of what is regarded as lèse majesté, particularly coming from The King Never Smiles, is the fact the King has established a relationship with the military and it has been a cosy relationship. My personal opinion is that if the monarchy did not have that relationship with the military, the monarchy would not be as strong and perhaps would not even have survived up to the present day. So it has been sort of a symbiotic relationship and I don’t think it’s a bad one either.
But all governments rely to a certain extent of fear-mongering, whether it’s fear of terrorism or war on drugs or whatever. They try to keep us scared and that keeps the public in line. I think that this movement that is developing is not what the government says it is. The government thinks that there is a conspiracy to topple the monarchy and I don’t think that’s true at all. I would say that overwhelmingly the people that I know who are freedom of expression activists have no interest in getting rid of the monarchy. In fact most of us see the monarchy as a very stabilising and unifying force in Thai society. We don’t see anything wrong with it. Every society needs a symbol, needs a figurehead and the monarchy provides that in every country where there is still a monarchy. I don’t think that really has much to do with our day-to-day lives.
So in fact there is no movement to overthrow the monarchy, there is no republican sentiment in Thailand. In fact rhetorically what would be the differences if we have a president rather than a prime minister? It would make absolutely no different to the way Thai society functions whether there is a monarchy or not. But the monarchy is a very potent symbol. So I think it is very important that now we make censorship a hot issue, and in a same way, Freedom against Censorship in Thailand was the first organization that started to talk about lèse majesté as a censorship issue. Everybody was afraid to talk about the issue. And when we broke that dam the flood gates were opened and people were starting to talk about lèse majesté.
Also you are talking about the military evidently becoming more dominant in Thai politics right? But that’s probably more obvious since the 2006 coup. In terms of 2011, we have the new government, what are your thoughts on the potential of the new government to step out of that shadow?
Well, I think the American anarchist Emma Goldman was right that if voting could change anything, it would be illegal. I don’t have any faith whatsoever in elected government. I don’t think voting equals democracy. Participation is what democracy is all about and that’s why government is so afraid of the internet because it is participatory democracy. The internet enables the conversations among us.
So in fact I think the present government has done itself the greatest service to Thai society by alienating and rejecting its power base which were the Red Shirts. When I say I have no interest in whatsoever electoral politics, I have no interest similarly in mass movements. I think that the Red Shirt movement or the Yellow Shirt movement, they might make people feel good but they are not actually going to change Thai society. What is going to change Thai society is the conversation, it’s us all talking about it.
The Red Shirts of course elected the Pheu Thai government but the Red Shirts were talking about the ‘Amart’ and the ‘Prai’ and in fact you could not regard Taksin or the Prime Minister as ‘Prai’. They are not peasants, they are rich fat cats and therefore by definition, ‘Amart’. So in fact the Red Shirts have it wrong.
So that kind of points out the trends on internet freedom next year?
I think it’s going to get worse and worse, actually. It’s interesting because under the Democrat government and under the Pheu Thai, we have two deputy Prime Ministers who are both essentially gangsters. They are political henchmen; they are strong men who throw their weight around. And if you notice both of their jobs are to censor the internet, to keep us from talking to each other. Now Chalerm (Yubamrung) is talking about spending 400 million baht on this new technology to block foreign websites. Now one of the things that FACT immediately did was to write to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the President of the European Union to demand that foreign governments do not sell this technology to Thailand. Because if they talk of internet freedom, then how can they allow western countries to sell this kind of technology to Thailand to repress our internet freedom?
So I think it’s going to get way worse. And I see such disturbing parallels to us becoming a very regulated society like Burma. Maybe not like the Khmer Rouge but a lot of parallels to Burma and the rise of military dictatorship.
It’s quite scary, huh?
Yeah, it is. Most foreigners in Thailand don’t talk about politics at all particularly free speech issues because they are afraid of getting kicked out of Thailand. But Thailand is my home, my family is here, my career is here, and I don’t expect ever to live anywhere else. So if they are going to lock me up for free speech I suppose they’ve got to lock me up. But they are not going to lock me up for any crime because there is no crime in free speech.
So you said you don’t believe in mass movements but you believe in the conversation, free speech. Can you elaborate?
I’ll give you an example of that. In the period of the Emergency Decree, when the emergency powers were lifted on December the 23nd 2010, that should have reset the whole censorship agenda back to zero. There should have been nothing censored anymore on the internet, that should be the end of it. But in fact from the period of emergency up until now not one single website has been unblocked. So in fact there is a real hidden agenda there.
You see the foundation of any kind of progressive thinking in society is an absence of censorship. If you can say anything, if all speech is free, then you encourage a population with discrimination. If you don’t like it, don’t look at it. That’s the real censorship. If something really pisses you off, a cartoon about your prophet, for example, or cartoon about your King pisses you off, for god’s sake, don’t look at them! Why are you working yourself up for nothing! It doesn’t make any sense.
So I would like to see us start again at zero and see what level of censorship society really needs to function. We might decide that we don’t have any. You look at the United States as the big Bastille of rights and free speech, of course there is censorship in the United States, there is lots of mainstream censorship in the United States, there is lots of internet censorship in terms of copyright and child pornography and so on and so forth. In fact I don’t think that you have any society that doesn’t have any censorship but I think Thai society has gone overboard. Essentially they are telling all of us that we are too stupid to figure out the internet on our own. We need a babysitter in the form of government and I really resent the fact that government wants to be the police for mind morals. They don’t deserve to be the moral police. They are no more holy than the rest of us.
So what’s your latest demand on 112 then?
Again, I think that we are far too sensitive. What is always brought up in this whole debate is “The King is our Father, the Queen is our mother”. Wonderful, that’s great! O.K. now you think about your own parents, think about your own father and mother and somebody insults your own father and your own mother in the newspaper or on the internet, are you going to get a gun and shoot them? Are you going to try to put them in jail? It’s absolutely lunatic. So my advice for people is “grow a skin!” Don’t be so sensitive, I mean, it’s just words. When we grow up as kids, there is at the school yard ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.’ So in fact don’t be so sensitive to this. You look at the YouTube videos that were satire or parody of the royals, it’s just complete nonsense. Why should we think they are important? We are giving them far too much credit and I think what government has done itself in a way is destabilising the monarchy. Because by making this issue such an enormous elephant in the corner, they’re somehow thinking that they’re protecting the monarchy.
I certainly heard the conspiracy theory going around these days that in fact government has a reverse agenda that in fact government is trying to destabilise the monarchy by getting us all talking about lèse majesté. Then you think about a learned judge, an educated man, who gives some old man 20 years in prison, surely he’s thought far enough to realise that there is going to be a backlash. It’s inconceivable that he did not even consider that he just thought about the punishment. It’s inconceivable to me. So in fact I would definitely say that learned judge is guilty of lèse majesté.
But that also brings me to the fact that in Thailand it’s considered to be contempt to criticise a court’s decision and that’s absolutely wrong. Judges are people; they are not gods and in fact it’s a vital part of free expression that we are able to shape the legislative function, the lawmaking, to shape the judiciary function, and to shape the executive function as well so that politicians actually are forced to act in our name, that judges are forced to do what the public wants.
So what exactly is the demand of the FACT on lèse majesté ste? Abolish, reform or what?
Repeal is a better word because that’s more precise in law. So FACT demands a repeal of the lèse majesté law. I’m presently aware of at least ten public initiatives against the lèse majesté law and the Computer Crimes act and I’m a part of maybe six or seven of them. The ones that are specifically Red Shirt I don’t sign on to because I’m not a Red Shirt. Sure, some of the stuff of the Red Shirts is great, some of the stuff of the Yellows is great, but I’m not either of those. I’m only on free speech, I’m only on censorship.
So in fact we demand repeal of the lèse majesté law and the repeal of the Computer Crimes Act. The Computer Crimes Act is something quite different because before there was a Computer Crimes Act, there must have been computer crimes. You only enact a law when there are crimes for the law to combat but in fact all of the things that the Computer Crimes act calls ‘crimes’ were adequately dealt with in the criminal code. For example, pornography, gambling, drugs, all of these things have already been dealt with and in fact censorship does not deal with the root of the problem. For instance, the problem is not pornography, the problem is abuse of women and there are adequate laws to deal with that. So you don’t start at the top. You don’t say “Look, we can’t look at this because it results from the abuse of women and therefore it must be censored.” You go after the perpetrators of the abuse of women or the perpetrators of online gambling or whatever. You don’t start with the internet. You start with the problems in society.
One of the things that I’m partially agreed about is the fact that the Ministry of Public Health has blocked 117 online pharmacies. The reason they blocked these Thai online pharmacies is because these pharmacies offer the morning after pill and the morning after pill is illegal in Thailand. However, Thailand has the second largest population of unwanted teenage pregnancies in the world after the United States and also we have 120,000 teenage pregnancies in Thailand. We have 200,000 in total of unplanned pregnancies but 120,000 of that is teenagers. So the government made abortions illegal, made abortion information illegal, and made the morning after pill illegal. So rather than giving young women the means to deal with unwanted pregnancies which basically ruin their lives, it decides to block the means to find out the information. And so in fact all of us are going to have to deal with all these unwanted children, 120,000 unwanted children a year. You and I are paying for this, society is paying for this, education, healthcare, so on and so forth right? We are all paying for this and we have to deal with the societal problems that will occur because we have all these unwanted children in the next generation. This is going to be a huge problem for Thai society that could be solved by birth control but it’s not because we have the government acting as moral police. So in fact government could have sex education in school, government could have reliable access to birth control information for students. There could be access to abortion, perhaps not as freely as it was in the Soviet Union or in China. In fact it should not be considered to be morally corrupt to have an abortion or having a morning after pill.
So going back to lèse majesté, how would you respond to the people that say “Oh, it’s there to protect the Monarchy and to abolish it means you want to overthrow the monarchy”?
That’s complete nonsense. I think that any leader survives on their own nerve. I think that King Bhumibol has walked on a razor edge for 60 years and done a pretty good job of it, that’s my personal opinion. I personally have nothing against the Monarchy but the lèse majesté law is being enforced so strictly because of the next King, because of the succession. So in fact that they will appear to be loyal to charge people with lèse majesté and censor the internet and so they would appear to be loyal to the next King.
For 2011, if you could name one person or more, Thais or foreigners, to become a person of the year in your field, who would you name and why?
I would probably name Sor Sivalak. I’m very close to Sor Sivalak and I think that he has done more to stand up to political power. You don’t need to agree with what he is all about, about what he said. And it’s not at all about lèse majesté despite the fact that he has been charged with lèse majesté four times, despite the fact that his books have been banned for lèse majesté, it’s not about that at all. But the whole idea of, he calls it: “Socially engaged Buddhism”, the whole idea of social engagement in general means that you rely on yourself and your own conscience and I think that’s the most important part, to be unafraid that you can actually act on your conscience without being afraid.
So I think if you contrast the two marches that occurred within the same week, the fearlessness walk from Victory Monument to Rachaprasong which was done in complete silence with great respect and then you contrast the people who showed up at the US embassy and the United Nations with big signs with a bunch of cursing: “Ambassador Kenney shut up!” or “You pricks”, it’s a question of respect for other people’s opinion and people’s expression. It’s all about respect. And the reason that government censors us is because it does not respect the public. Government is not respecting us, that’s why I have no faith in electoral politics. Same old story every time, no matter who is elected they do it the same old way and you have to realise that most of the people in the government are digital dinosaurs, they have no idea how the internet works.
There was a big story about Thai bureaucrats who were only supposed to use the government’s computers for the e-mail and they couldn’t figure it out. They couldn’t keep the server running so everybody is still has hotmail! They’re not even sophisticated enough to have gmail which actually filters the spam! So they’re dinosaurs, they’re technological dinosaurs.
And also if you could name the events or the incident of this year that is considered a turning point that has a lot of implications on freedom for Thailand, what would you name?
I think that the rise of a non-violent leader in the Red Shirts is probably the most important development following the killings at Rachaprasong. Now the killings at Rachaprasong woke us up once again for the first time since 1992 that the Thai government was willing to shoot its own citizens on the street, woke us up again that things never changed! Government always does things the same way, the censorship, the shooting people on the street.
So the rise of non-violent activists likes Sombat who is very much in the mould incidentally with Sor Sivalak, to me, when you contrast Sombat with Arisman, you see that there is somebody who is willing to listen to people, take the people’s needs into account, actually respect the public, respect the constituencies. Now I really hope for Sombat’s sake that he is never elected to political office because I think it would ruin it. But in fact I think he is a very strong leader in Thai society, I think he is one of the people that I look up to.
The other interesting development, I like the fact that Supinya was named to the National Broadcasting Telecommunications Council. Two things of course can happen when somebody gets into that position: they can either be coopted or corrupted, or they can quietly start to change the fundamental power structure of the organization to incorporate free speech and I certainly hope that she does so. I know that she got a lot of criticism from freedom of expression activists but I support her completely in doing this. There is somebody who knows the value of freedom of expression and now they are in the position of some influence to government to actually put that into practice and show established Thai bureaucrats and politicians why freedom of expression is important. Because I think most of them haven’t even thought about it.