The Criminal Court on Thursday found media mogul Sondhi Limthongkul guilty for defaming former deputy prime minister MR Pridiyathorn Devakula and sentenced him to serve two years in jail.
The court cited Sondhi as a repeat offender for libel to refuse to grant him leniency for a suspended jail term.
Reacting to his verdict, Sondhi said he will fight for an overturn in the appellate review. He has sought a temporary release pending the filing of his appeal within 30 days.
As pliantiff, Pridiyathorn argued that Sondhi had smeared him by linking him to the old power clique, a reference to the ousted government led by ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra.
Sondhi made his news commentary that Pridiyathorn was trying to whitewash the wrongdoing committed by the ousted government.
As examples of the whitewash scam, he cited Pridiyathorn’s involvement in the attempt to revive the two-and three-digit lotteries and in protecting former tax chief Sirote Sawasdipanich who was linked to facilitating Thaksin’s share transactions.
Sondhi’s remarks were published in the Manager newspaper and circulated in the Internet by ThaiDay Dot Com. Both outlets are part of his media empire.
As accomplice to circulate inflammatory remarks, newspaper editor Khunthong Loseriwanit was given a two-year suspended jail term and pay a fine of Bt30,000.
The court also ordered the defence to publish an apology for Pridiyathorn in daily newspapers for five consecutive days.
Sondhi gets 2 years for defamation
The Criminal Court sentenced media proprietor Sondhi Limthongkul to two years in jail after finding him guilty of defaming MR Pridiyathorn Devekula, a former deputy prime minister and finance minister.
The defamation case was brought against Sondhi by MR Pridiyathorn.
Also named as defendants were Thai Day Dot Com Co, the Manager Media Group and Khunthong Lorseriwanich, editor and publisher of the Phujadkarn daily.
According to the lawsuit, in a television programme aired on News1 ASTV on Jan 12, 2007 Mr Sondhi accused MR Pridiyathorn of allowing an old power clique to operate the two- and three-digit lottery, trying to protect former Revenue Department chief Sirote Sawasdipanich who failed to examine sales of Ample Rich shares to Singapore’s Temasek Holdings, and allowing the transfer of Shin Corporation shares free of tax.
The court sentenced Sondhi to two years imprisonment, Thai Day Dot Com to a 200,000 baht fine, and Khunthong to a one-year suspended jail term and a fine of 30,000 baht.
Sondhi said he would appeal the court verdict and fight his conviction all the way to the Supreme Court.
PAD Leader Relesed on Bail after Getting Sentenced for Libel
The Criminal Court has handed down a two-year jail sentence to a core leader of the People’s Alliance for Democracy after he was found guilty of libeling a former finance minister during his TV program in January 2007.
The Criminal Court ruled that core leader of the People’s Alliance for Democracy, or PAD, Sondhi Limthongkul, as the host of ASTV’s Thailand Weekly Program, had defamed former finance minister Pridiyathorn Devakul.
The case stemmed from Sondhi’s comments in his program aired on January 12, 2007 and later published in the Manager Daily. Sondhi criticized that the inaction of then finance minister Pridiyathorn against the distribution of two- and three-digit lottery aimed to whitewash the Thaksin Shinawatra administration and accused him of protecting individuals involved in the tax-free sales of Shin Corp shares.
The judge said the two-year jail term without suspension is due to the fact that Sondhi has been indicted in several earlier defamation cases, so it is a repeated offence.
Sondhi was later released on 200,000-baht bail.
The PAD leader said he is not worried about the verdict and is set to appeal the case.
The court has also fined Thaiday Dot Com Company, operator of ASTV, 200,000 baht and handed down a one-year sentence and a fine of 30,000 baht to publisher of Manager Daily Khunthong Lorsereewanich but his jail penalty has been suspended for two years as he has never been convicted before.
The defendants are also required to publish an apology in five newspapers, including Thai Rath, Daily News, Matichon and ASTV Manager. The lawsuit against the Manager Media Group was dismissed as the court had found no evidence linking the firm with the offence.