This is a dispute between French citizens over an article published in French by a French journalist. It should be settled in France. But instead of bringing his suit against Pierre Queffélec before a French court, Boudemagh has filed his suit with the Bangkok South criminal court.
The article in question, published on the website in May 2017, was an interview with Thierry Mariani, a French deputy who represents French citizens living abroad. Boudemagh, who is also a Mediapart blogger, thinks that he was defamed by comments Mariani made in the interview but, instead of suing Mariani, he is suing this small online publication.
“No one disputes Yamine Boudemagh’s right to sue if he thinks he was defamed,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk. “But why do it in Thailand, a country with legislation that is extremely harsh towards journalists and publishers? The suit borders on the absurd. We urge the plaintiff to see reason and, if the dispute cannot be settled out of court, to bring his suit, which concerns only French citizens, before a French court.”
If convicted of criminal libel in Thailand, Queffélec could be facing the possibility of a two-year jail sentence and deportation. Meanwhile, he will not be able to leave Thailand until the proceedings reach a conclusion, which could take several years. Furthermore, the exorbitant legal costs would be fuelled by the obligation to translate every French-language document into Thai and would mean the end for this poorly-funded publication.
Headed by Gen. Prayuth Chan-o-cha, Thailand’s military junta has been using the defamation law to gag and harass journalists and bloggers ever since seizing power in a coup in 2014. Foreign journalists are not spared. Jonathan Head, a British journalist working for the BBC, was charged with criminal defamation in 2017, as was Andy Hall, a British blogger, in 2015.
Thailand is ranked 142nd out of 180 countries in RSF's 2017 World Press Freedom Index.