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Jenny Braddy with a letter from Canberra about her brother's case

Advocate Rejects 'Apology' Claim

Monday, December 29, 2014
PHUKET: Migrant workers' rights advocate Andy Hall today rejected a claim by Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop that he had apologised to win his British passport back from Thai court authorities.

''I always apologise when I am wrong,'' Mr Hall said, ''but I have never made any apologies in connection with the cases being pursued against me in Thailand.''

The Australian Foreign Minister made her claim that Mr Hall had apologised in explaining why the Australian Government had failed to offer public support to Phuket journalists Alan Morison and Chutima Sidasathian, who are being sued for criminal defamation by the Royal Thai Navy.

The United Nations human rights body, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the International Commission of Jurists, Reporters Without Borders, the Committee to Defend Journalists, and many other organisations have criticised the Navy's unprecedented military versus media court action.

Britain's Ambassador to Thailand, Mark Kent, is among many who say the media in Thailand must be free.

The British Government requested Mr Hall's passport be returned and the Thai courts were quick to respond. With his passport in his possession, Mr Hall has since visited Britain, Burma and the Philippines, while at the same time returning to answer charges against him brought by a large Thai pineapple processor.

The Australian Government has failed to make the same request in the case of Alan Morison, who is as a result unable to return home to visit his 91-year-old father.

The elderly Mr Morison's doctor wrote recently that his health was deteriorating rapidly and he could die at any time.

Alarmed at the prospect of her father dying before her brother can see him again, Morison's sister, Jenny Braddy, met briefly just before Christmas with Minister Bishop who was on a whistle-stop tour in Australia.

According to Mrs Braddy, Ms Bishop said the Australian Government ''haven't gone public because it could make matters worse for you [Morison] with the Thai government.''

''Julie said you haven't met all the conditions and I said you had. Andy Hall got his passport back because he met the conditions, including apologising. I was amazed at this.''

Mr Hall denied today that he had apologised. Alan Morison added that the Thai Government had no say in his case because a trial was already underway.

Morison added: ''The reaction of the Australian Government remains extremely disappointing. I am given the usual consular assistance.

''But the people in Canberra fail to comprehend or support the universal principle of media freedom and show a shameful reluctance to ask for my passport to be returned.

''Andy Hall and I have both been sued for doing our jobs, he as a human rights defender and me as a journalist with a record of covering rights issues including the stateless Rohingya.

''The biggest difference in our cases is that he is British and fortunately has the support of a government that understands the principles. I have the Australian government behind me - a very long way behind me.''

Morison said the messages he received from Australian officials were always an ''unmistakable echo'' of what they had been told by officials in Thailand.

''The present Australian government and its bureaucrats show no concern for matters of principle,'' he said.

''Acquiescing is what they do. Lately it's being suggested that we should apologise for something we haven't done.

''This suggestion ignores justice and the fact that our trial has begun. Clearly, Canberra is adrift of reality.

''The word one of our Australian supporters uses is 'gutless.' I am not prepared to go that far. But they all certainly appear unable to tell right from wrong.''

In response to a recent letter from a Canberra bureaucrat to Mrs Braddy, Mr Morison has written the following:

Hello Lance,

Could you please pass on to Phillip Stonehouse this email response to his recent letter to my sister. I hope my response makes its way to the desk of the Minister:

There are two key issues surrounding my case. Both appear to be misunderstood by the Foreign Ministry.

1. My father is dying. I want to see him at least once more before nature takes its course. Why is the Australian Government not helping me to see my father before he dies?

As my father's doctor writes in a recent letter: ''He [John Morison] is a 91-year-old man with severe cardiac problems . . . His health is declining and his current prognosis is poor. I would certainly support any attempt by his son Alan Morison to return home to see him before he dies as he is unlikely to survive for much longer.''

I have pointed out more than once the precedent set by the British Government in asking for the return of the passport of migrant worker advocate Andy Hall, who faces similar charges in Thailand.

Mr Hall has visited Britain, Burma and the Philippines since the Thai courts returned his passport at the British Government's request. I hold little hope for achieving the return of my passport without government support.

2. The case against me and Chutima Sidasathian is unjust and a gross abuse of media freedom. It has been criticised publicly by virtually every body or group with an understanding of the issues, with the notable exception of the Australian Government.

The paragraph over which we have been charged was republished word for word from a Reuters report, yet Reuters has not been charged.

The phrase ''naval forces'' in the original paragraph in English has been translated in the Thai version as ''the Royal Thai Navy.'' Indeed, the Royal Thai Navy is now mentioned three times in a paragraph in which it was originally not mentioned at all.

The Phuket Prosecutor will submit this mistranslated paragraph to the court as the central document in our trial.

The committee of the Rights and Liberties Protection Department of Thailand's Justice Ministry recently responded to our request for bail support with a letter that included the following words in Thai:

''The information . . . is false and untrue. The journalists must be correct and recheck their information before publishing the story to make sure there is no danger to others. The reputation of the Royal Thai Navy was damaged and made people look down on the Navy. On the evidence we have, we believe Morison and Khun Chutima did the wrong thing.''

We are aghast at such an opinion being expressed by an agency under the Justice Ministry. The Ministry appears to be in contempt of its own court.

I understand that most governments are obliged to operate within the legal framework of other countries where expat citizens are involved. But is the Australian government now proposing to accept in this case the application of bad laws, to ignore the universal principles of media freedom and to allow this unwarranted and unjust trial to proceed without speaking out?

Regards,
Alan Morison.

Morison and Khun Chutima are due in court again in July. The pair face possible jail terms.

Latest Report in 'Border Watch' Newspaper

A Mount Gambier woman called on high-profile Liberal MP Julie Bishop to intervene in a legal situation that has left her brother stranded in Thailand.
http://www.borderwatch.com.au/story/2772272/family-pleas-for-government-aid/?cs=1266

What Others Say


The Australian Government

Former Ambassador to Thailand, James Wise: ''Normally, we take up issues like yours with our host government only after the person affected asks us to do so (especially when the case already has a high profile and we can be confident that the host government is aware of it). We would not want to cut across your own plans for managing the way you want to respond to the allegations against you - because, ultimately, how you manage your affairs is your business, not ours.''

United Nations

''Criminal prosecution for defamation has a chilling effect on freedom of the press,'' said Ravina Shamdasani, the spokesperson for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. ''International standards are clear that imprisonment is never an appropriate penalty for defamation.''

Human Rights Watch

''The Thai navy's lawsuit is a reckless attempt to curtail journalists' reporting on alleged human trafficking by its officers,'' said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. ''Unless the government withdraws the case, its impact will be felt far beyond those reporting on abuses against the Rohingya - and could have a choking effect on all investigative reporting in Thailand.''

Reporters Without Borders

"It is intolerable that journalists are being prosecuted for just doing their job by relaying information of general interest that had already been made public," Reporters Without Borders said. "Bringing charges under the controversial Computers Crimes Act in a defamation case is indicative of the critical state of freedom of information in Thailand and amounts to an attempt to gag the media. We support these journalists, who are facing a jail term, and we call for the immediate withdrawal of these proceedings."

Committee to Protect Journalists

''Rather than shooting the messenger, the Royal Thai Navy would be better suited launching an internal investigation into the serious allegations of abuse that have been raised,'' said Shawn Crispin, CPJ's senior Southeast Asia representative. ''This type of legal intimidation aims ultimately at discouraging media reporting on allegations of serious human rights abuses.''

Chris Lewa, director of the rights group the Arakan Project

''Thanks to the fair investigative reporting by the Phuketwan journalists, the involvement of various Thai agencies in the massive smuggling and trafficking operations of Rohingya refugees and their related miseries is no more a secret. Rights groups should unite to call on Thailand to quash these defamation charges.''

Phuketwan

''We wish the Royal Thai Navy would clear its reputation by explaining precisely what is happening to the Rohingya in the Andaman Sea and in Thailand,'' Phuketwan said in a statement released in response to the charges. ''By instead using a controversial law against us, the Navy is, we believe, acting out of character.''

Bangkok Post

The action makes the navy look like a bully, and gives the impression the admirals would like to intimidate the media. Instead of defending the navy's honor, the criminal defamation suit holds it to question. Instead of silencing the media about the story - concerning the navy's role in the mistreatment of Rohingya boatpeople - the lawsuit repeats it, to more people and at greater length.

CNN

Morison said: "The navy's action over one paragraph has created a perfect storm. If the navy proceeds with the case, the Rohingya issue is now tied up in their action against media under a controversial law."

TIME

In the meantime, calmer seas mean that even more Rohingya are expected to attempt the treacherous journey in the weeks ahead. Nothing could gladden the traffickers more.

Reuters

Barb Burg, Reuters' (former) global head of communications: ''Our story was fair and balanced and Reuters has not been accused of criminal libel.''

Bill Barnett (The Phuket Insider)

The issues which have drawn Phuketwan into this fray are profound and disturbing. There should be no need to wax over reality and respect needs to be given to those who stand up for the helpless who cannot help themselves.

Andrew Drummond (Investigative Journalist)

We should all support journalists who are doing a difficult job here under laws which best suit a totalitarian state.

Excellence in Human Rights Reporting, Investigative Reporting awards

In 2010 the Phuketwan team shared the Society of Publishers in Asia Award for Excellence in Investigative Reporting and a second Award for Excellence in Human Rights Reporting, both with the South China Morning Post newspaper. Judges said of the Excellence in Investigative Reporting award: ''An excellent series that uncovered serious government abuses and had a material impact in correcting them. Exclusivity. Strong reporting. Hard-hitting piece with international implications.''

Of the Excellence in Human Rights Reporting award, the judges said: ''Excellent investigative work that exposed serious human rights abuses of oppressed people. Intrepid reporting of a hidden subject. This is a high-caliber series buttressed by solid on-the-ground reporting and great pictures. All militaries are challenging subjects for investigative reporters and Thailand's is no exception. The team clearly went to great lengths to get sources, break news, and provide the details that prodded the government into action.''

Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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If I was you Ed - Go to Lankawi by boat, then apply for a new passport in Malaysia.
Since you don't need a passport to get there.

Posted by Tbs on December 29, 2014 23:38

Editor Comment:

You are right, Tbs. You are not me.

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This is such a sobering story. It is great to see that Alan Morison and his colleagues have the support of Jenny Braddy and the Australian media even if some bureaucrats have little understanding of or concern about what is happening.

Journalists and human rights defenders need to be supported and protected whether they go by the name of Peter Greste, Alan Morison, Chutima Sidasathian or Andy Hall.

It is also much better to support journalists before they are sent to prison rather than trying to do something about it later. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Posted by Ian Yarwood on December 29, 2014 23:48

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You are saying there was a mistranslation of the phrase 'naval forces'. Who translated that phrase and were they professional translators specialising in legal translation of legal documents. If this was not the case then your defence team should bring this to the attention of the prosecutor. I know you have tried many avenues with the generous help of outside agencies, but in a court of law a document should be translated in correct legal terms by certified translators of legal texts. It appears this was not the case.

Posted by Pete on December 30, 2014 06:46

Editor Comment:

Even ''professional'' translators in Thailand are far from perfect. Some of them deliver the results that the client wants. This is a ''fix.'' What do you expect?

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What do you expect?
In one word - justice.

Posted by Pete on December 30, 2014 08:39

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These bureaucrats are just spineless do-nothings. They only pander to what is the politically correct fad of the month or whatever appears to be a vote winner.

Both sides of Australian politics are full of gutless squibs and the Abbott Government is doomed already to be booted out at the next election.

Don't hold your breath waiting for change, they now hide behind websites and email addresses. Trying to even get a meeting with them is impossible.

Posted by Arun Muruga on December 30, 2014 09:31

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You are clearly no Andy Hall. Now you are dragging his name through the mud - your sister starting rumours about a non-existent apology which he is then forced to deny. You are shameless.

Posted by Matt on December 30, 2014 11:42

Editor Comment:

As Andy Hall has posted this article on Facebook, I would suggest that your knowledge of the rights and wrongs of this case is based on ignorance, as usual. And now, being the anonymous coward that you are, you attack my sister. Are you really that low? Do you by any chance come from Canberra?

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Can someone please say it as it is?

Phuketwan is not being sued for the one paragraph it copied from not-being-sued Reuters. It is being sued for all the other paragraphs. It is a shut the f* up.

The Ozzy government should get him his passport back to let him travel to his father. It is unbelievable. As if he would not come back to face this "trial".

Posted by Lena on December 30, 2014 13:50


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