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The unprecedented court action unites media freedom with Rohingya abuse

Australian Faces Jail for Coverage of Same Story That Won Reuters a Pulitzer Prize

Tuesday, April 15, 2014
BANGKOK: Reuters' international news agency has won a Pulitzer prize for exposing the violent persecution of Myanmar's Muslim Rohingya minority while an Australian journalist and his Thai colleague face jail for their coverage of the same story.

Alan Morison and Chutima Sidasathian will face criminal defamation charges in a Thai court on Thursday for repeating information in a Reuters report on Phuketwan, their small Phuket-based news website.

Thailand's navy last year launched an unprecedented defamation case against Mr Morison, a former senior editor at 'The Age,' and Ms Chutima for republishing one paragraph word-for-word from a Reuters story that alleged some members of the Thai military were involved in networks smuggling Rohingya boat people from Mynamar.

No action has been taken against Reuters, one of the world's largest news agencies, over the story that was published in July last year.

The London-based company has declined to comment on the case against Mr Morison and Ms Chutima, who say they are prepared to go to jail to defend media freedom in Thailand, where defamation laws are being increasingly used to silence criticism.

The Pulitzer board commended Reuters journalists Jason Szep and Andrew Marshall for their '''courageous reports''' on the Rohingya, who in their efforts to flee Myanmar ''often fall victim to predatory human trafficking networks''.

Mr Morison, 66, congratulated Reuters for the Pulitzer, the world's top award for journalism excellence, awarded each year by Columbia University. '''Jason Szep and Andrew Marshall have worked very hard recently to bring to the wider world the tragedy of the Rohingya that Phuketwan has been consistently reporting since 2008,''' Mr Morison said.

Ms Chutima was hired by Reuters to help prepare some of the company's Rohingya coverage.

Stephen Adler, Reuters' editor-in-chief, said in a statement he was '''immensely proud''' of Reuters' '''high impact series''' on the Rohingya.

''For two years, Reuters reporters have tirelessly investigated terrible human-rights abuses in a forgotten corner of the Muslim world, bringing the international dimensions of the oppressed Rohingya of Mynamar to the global attention,''' he said.

Mr Szep, one of the authors of the report quoted by Phuketwan, said from Washington he hopes the prize will focus ''greater international attention of the risks and presence of religious violence in Myanmar''.

The prosecution of Mr Morison and Ms Chutima is due to go ahead despite calls by the United Nations and rights groups for the charges to be dropped.

Phuket public prosecutor Wiwat Kijjaruk told reporters last week there was enough evidence to proceed ''even though the two said they just republished an article from Reuters . . . they should have checked the facts before doing so''.

If convicted, Mr Morison and Ms Chutima could face up to seven years in jail.

Comments

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Congratulations Phuket Wan,
It is Amazing that Thai don't support or reward you. For me this only proofs that the real culprits are far above Captain's level.
Is it collective Insanity or simple plain proof that High(er) authorities or very "influencal" powerfull people are orchestrating and masterminding all this.

I wish your crusade will lead to Victory! Victory would be punishing all bad ones involved. And PhuketWan rewarded for their support.

Posted by PhuketGreed on April 15, 2014 19:35

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If it was Lawyers they would go where the deepest pockets are being the Reuters not the humble Phuket Wan being more a corner store news outlet in comparison,seems someone has a axe to grind with Phuket Wan and are going to persist even if there is negative outcry from several quarters & general legal advice is its doomed to fail.

Posted by slickmelb on April 15, 2014 21:02

Editor Comment:

As we have said, the Royal Thai Navy is a good organisation but they have been poorly advised on this matter and the case is badly flawed. We are the victims, not them.

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In this critical times ,the Thailand base journalists , Human Rights groups and civil society must come forwards to rescue the two PW journalists . They have been rescued many Rohingyas' lives since 2008 . Many news agencies around the world used to copy PW news regarding human trafficking of Rohingya boat people . I,on behalf of Rohingya community would like to thanks to those who voiced out to drop the false case against PW journalists. Especially London base Reuters International News Agency's journalists are sincerely advised to come forwards at the help of PW journalists. We are very disturbed of case and ask all friends to pray for Alan Morison and Chutima Sidasathian . We do firm belief that the truth will be prevailed !

Posted by Maung Kyaw Nu,Burmese Rohingya Association in Thailand ,BRAT. on April 17, 2014 03:48


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