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CPJ Concerned About Trial of Journalists on Defamation Charges in Thailand

Saturday, July 11, 2015
July 10, 2015

Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha
Prime Minister
Royal Thai Government
Government House
Pitsanulok Road, Dusit
Bangkok, Thailand 10300


Via facsimile: +66(0)2-282-5131

Dear Prime Minister Prayuth,

The Committee to Protect Journalists is concerned about the trial on Tuesday of two journalists who face up to seven years in prison if convicted on defamation and computer crime charges.

Alan Morison, an Australian national, and Chutima Sidasathian, a Thai citizen, are reporters for Phuketwan, a small, English-language newspaper based in the southern Thai province of Phuket.

Chutima had earlier served as a paid fixer for the Reuters news agency on two occasions and had introduced Reuters reporters to news sources.

In April 2014, a court charged the two journalists in connection with a 41-word paragraph published in the July 2013 edition of Phuketwan.

The paragraph was an excerpt from a Reuters special report, which quoted an anonymous source claiming that Thai naval forces had profited from the smuggling of ethnic Rohingya. Phuketwan published the Thai navy's denial of the allegation.

Morison and Chutima told CPJ that the charges against them have inhibited their ability to gather and publish news.

Chutima said she has faced frequent official harassment, including a ban on her reporting on press events organised by the National Council for Peace and Order military junta.

Morison told CPJ that local advertisers have stopped taking placements in Phuketwan due to fear of official reprisal. He said he spends approximately a third of his time at work preparing for the trial.

Both reporters spent five hours in jail during an April 2014 bail hearing.

In 2014, Reuters won a Pulitzer Prize for a series of groundbreaking stories on the plight of ethnic Rohingya trafficked by human smuggling rings from Myanmar and Bangladesh to countries in Southeast Asia. (Authorities threatened to file defamation charges against Reuters, but later dropped the threat.)

Other recent coverage has revealed the existence of mass graves and jungle detention camps where Rohingya were held and, in some instances, executed by human smuggling rings active in Thailand's remote southernmost region.

The news accounts corroborated earlier investigative reporting undertaken by Morison and Chutima, beginning in 2008 when they first reported that Rohingya boatpeople were appearing on Thailand's shores and naval authorities were quietly pushing them back to sea.

Prime Minister Prayuth, following international pressure, your government has launched investigations into official complicity in the illicit trafficking trade, which has led to the arrest of at least one senior military official and the transfers of several other security personnel.

We believe the legal threat against Morison and Chutima is intended to discourage other journalists from probing the politically sensitive issue of human trafficking in your country.

As your administration comes to terms with the full extent of Thailand's human trafficking problem, we urge you to ensure that journalists are able to conduct thorough investigative reporting in order to inform the public and curb future abuses.

The charges against Morison and Chutima risk damaging the international reputation of the entire Thai armed forces and should be dropped immediately.

Sincerely,

Joel Simon
Executive Director


CC List:

Admiral Kraison Chansuwanit, Commander, Royal Thai Navy

General Udomdej Sitabutr, Army Commander-in-Chief, Thailand

General Prawit Wonsuwan, Minister of Defense, Thailand

Paul Robilliard, Australian Ambassador to Thailand

Wanchai Wongmeechai, President, Thai Journalists Association



Original Report

https://cpj.org/2015/07/cpj-concerned-about-trial-of-journalists-on-defama.php

Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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Hi Ed

Yet another media release in support of Phuketwan.

I continue to look for anyone publicly supporting the Royal Thai Navy but without success.

This CPJ media release provided sobering information for all your readers about how the charges have adversely affected you - before you have even been found guilty of any offence.

Good luck in the week ahead.

Ian Yarwood
Solicitor
Perth - Western Australia

Posted by Ian Yarwood on July 11, 2015 12:38

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I have only managed to find one article on PW today that wasn't about the trial, even a delayed plane had the trial weaved into the report (yawn)

@Ian

It's likely rare for people to issue press releases in support of Government Prosecution as there is little value in that, so it's no surprise

It's a shame there is little reporting of the apparently shambolic trial going on in Samui or all the other stories from around Phuket. Ho Hum.

Posted by Discover Thainess on July 11, 2015 23:10

Editor Comment:

As we have said, DT, we spend our time writing about whatever we do and see and if we are forced to spend our time in preparing for a misguided criminal case, then that is what you will get. If what you are able to read in the future does not concern you, then you are in the wrong place. You are perfectly capable, of course, of going to Samui to see for yourself what is happening there - and that may be the only way in the future that you and other readers will be able to find out what is actually happening.

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@DT

I am not surprised but I think that only very misguided people would support the charges in any event.

Cheers

Posted by Ian Yarwood on July 12, 2015 06:58

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Ian: The problem is that people make snap judgements about what they read or hear so are frequently misguided. Orson Wells said 'Nobody gets justice. People only get good luck or bad luck', so here's wishing the two of you receive the good luck you deserve and justice can be seen to be done without misguidance. Just a great shame there is no trial by jury here.

Posted by Pete on July 12, 2015 07:21

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DT and Ed

I have read hundreds if comments and Ed's replies on this site now.

In its own way the DT's comment above and Ed's reply was the most interesting exchange I've seen.

Imagine how boring and uninformative the news would be if all the journalists were in jail instead of having just two journalists fighting to stay out of jail.

Ed, DT is also telling you that it is more important that you entertain him/ her with free news than it is for you to focus on your freedom and the future of Phuketwan. I hope that comment is not too unkind of me. (:

Posted by Ian Yarwood on July 12, 2015 10:43

Editor Comment:

Freedom and ''free news'' are quite different. In a land half-free, it surprises me that DT and others cannot understand what's really important and just want something at no cost. Fortunately, more thoughtful readers understand the degree of difficulty involved in achieving one to deliver the other.


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