17th HRC Regular Session: Freedom of Expression on Internet in Thailand and Pakistan
6 June 2011 8:33 am
17th Regular Session of the UN Human Rights Council
Item 3: Promotion and Protection of All Human Rights, Civil, Political, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Including the Right to Development – General Debate
Oral Statement Delivered by Ms. Pooja Patel, FORUM-ASIA
Monday, 6 June 2011
Thank you, Mr. President. FORUM-ASIA expresses its deep regret at the increasing attacks against cyber dissidents and other Internet users in many Asian countries where governments continue to seek arbitrary interpretation of article 19(3) of the ICCPR, thereby severely circumscribing freedom of opinion and expression on the Internet.
For instance, in Thailand, excessively harsh measures as outlined in article 112 of the Criminal Code (lèse-majesté) and section 14 of the 2007 Computer Crimes Act have been increasingly employed to target Internet users. The prison sentences under these laws are markedly high, of 10-15 years with no possibility of bail in most cases. As recommended in the report (A/HRC/17/27) of the Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Mr. Frank La Rue, we urge that all forms of defamation should be decriminalized. The government of Thailand must ensure that lists of the 75,000 blocked URLs as well as full details regarding the necessity and justification for each case of blocking are provided. Regarding the case of Ms. Chiranuch Premchaiporn, who is undergoing a legal trial for the views posted by other individuals on the website she administrates, we reiterate the views of Mr. La Rue that intermediaries should not be charged for content that they are not the author of or be forced to undertake censorship on behalf of the State. We urge that section 15 of the Computer Crimes Act which punishes intermediaries be repealed.
Mr. President, we are also concerned by the ongoing and widespread bans on websites which are being imposed in Pakistan, where hundreds of websites including Facebook are already blocked or filtered on the basis of blasphemous content. This is an altogether disproportionate response on the part of the government as it deprives millions of users from the Internet’s exchange, information and mobilisation capabilities. We are further troubled by recent order of the Lahore High Court in February, which issued a notice to the federal government to take measures including developing comprehensive strategies and tools to “block blasphemous content”. We stress that open access to websites contribute to the plurality of opinion and expression rather than to “cultural homogenisation”, as suggested by the Pakistani delegation’s intervention during the Interactive Dialogue last Friday.
Lastly, Mr. President, FORUM-ASIA repeats the call of the Special Rapporteur Frank La Rue to all Asian States, especially Thailand and Pakistan, that when a restriction is imposed as an exceptional measure on online content, it must pass a 3-part cumulative test, i.e. based on principles of predictability and transparency (provided by law); principle of legitimacy (pursue one of the purposes set out in article 19(3) of the ICCPR); and principles of necessity and proportionality (proven as necessary and the least restrictive means required to achieve the purported aim). Thank you, Mr. President.
 iLaw Project, “Situational Report on Control and Censorship of Online Media, through the Use of Laws and the Imposition of Thai State Policies”, 8 December 2010
 FORUM-ASIA, Oral Statement, 16th Regular Session of the UN Human Rights Council (28 February-25 March 2011), Item 3 Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, 10 March 2011
 Lahore High Court, Writ Petition No. 10392 of 2010, Islamic Lawyers Movement vs. Federation of Pakistan, 28 February 2011