Courts act against media-shareholding critics

Courts act against media-shareholding critics

Sarinee Achavanuntakul, an academic, is charged with contempt of court by the Supreme Court's Election Cases Division. (File photo by Somchai Poomlard)
Sarinee Achavanuntakul, an academic, is charged with contempt of court by the Supreme Court's Election Cases Division. (File photo by Somchai Poomlard)

An academic has been served with a summons for contempt of court and another invited to give statements for criticising two courts over their decisions involving media shareholding by MPs.

Sarinee Achavanuntakul, an independent academic and columnist, on Wednesday posted on Facebook a photo of the summons she received on Sunday.

The civil case involving contempt of court by publication was filed by Supradit Jeensawake, secretary of the Supreme Court’s Election Cases Division.

It refers to the Prachachon 2.0 (People 2.0) column titled Perils of Excessive Rule by Law (revisited), Case of Media Shareholding by MP Candidates by Ms Sarinee published in Krungthep Turakit newspaper on May 14, 2019.

A copy of a memorandum by Mr Supradit to Jinda Pantachote, chief of the division, who approved the proceedings, was also attached.

According to the memorandum, in the article Ms Sarinee cited as an example of the dangers of excessive use of rule by law a case in Sakon Nakhon in which the court banned a FFP MP candidate from running in March.

The article says the court interpreted that since the words “broadcasting and television business” were on the list of businesses the company he owned could operate, he was considered the owner or shareholder of such  business, which was a ground for disqualification as MP.

The writer called this a “careless” interpretation and very dangerous as it assumed an “objective” is equal to an “operation” without looking into related facts and intent of the law.

Base on such careless interpretation, the writer continues, there’s no guarantee a candidate who bought shares of a SET-listed company or invested in a mutual fund which bought shares of listed companies would not be banned too. This was because most firms used standard forms listing dozens of operations as the scope of businesses they can operate, she wrote. 

Mr Supradit wrote in the memo Ms Sarinee accused the court of being careless and use the law “often” and quoted the definitions of the two words from a Thai dictionary. He claimed it caused damage to the court because the writer had no way of knowing the court was careless in deciding the case and overused the laws.

He then recommended to his superiors that she be held in contempt of court under Section 32 of the Civil Procedure Code.

Yuthana Nuancharas was also a co-defendant as the editor, the memo said.

In another case, Assoc Prof Kovit Wongsurawat, a political science academic, received a letter dated Aug 26, 2019  from Cavana Traimas, secretary-general of the Constitutional Court’s office asking him to give statements on Friday.

It cited his tweet on June 26, which read: “Constitutional Court accepts petition on 32 MPs for holding media shares but does not suspend them from duty. This is beyond “thick-skinned”.

His comment followed the same court’s decision to suspend from duty Future Forward Party leader and list MP Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit after it accepted a similar case against him.

The court had explained in a statement it suspended Mr Thanathorn but not 32 MPs, mostly from coalition MPs, for allegedly holding media shares because, in Mr Thanathorn’s case, the Election Commission had already screened it and found the case had ground.

But the cases against the 32 MPs were sent directly to it without going through the EC so it needed time to check whether there is ground to suspend them.


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