PHUKET: The Royal Thai Navy and the Phuket prosecutor handing the Phuketwan defamation case have been invited to meet Thailand's Human Rights Commission in Bangkok on April 25.
The Computer Crimes Act and the Phuketwan case would be raised, Human Rights Commissioner Dr Niran Pitakwatchara, chairman of the sub-committee for civil and political rights, said today.
Phuket journalists Alan Morison and Chutima Sidasathian were granted bail of 100,000 baht each at Phuket Provincial Court yesterday and reappear there on May 26 when an unusual trial is expected to begin.
The pair have been accused of criminal defamation and a breach of the Computer Crimes Act by a captain acting on behalf of the Royal Thai Navy.
The sole paragraph at the centre of the complaint was republished on Phuketwan word for word from a special report on the Rohingya boatpeople by Reuters news agency journalists in July last year.
Reuters won a prestigious Pulitzer prize earlier this week for a series on the Rohingya. The paragraph was from an article that formed part of the Pulitzer-winning series.
Colonel Somkid Onjan, Deputy Superintendent of Phuket's Vichit Police Station, is investigating whether similar charges should be laid against Reuters to the charges laid against Phuketwan in December.
On March 25, Colonel Somkid was asked by the Phuket Prosecutor to seek more evidence from the Royal Thai Navy and a justification for its criminal libel action before the Reuters case could proceed.
Colonel Somkid said today that because of the busy Songkran New Year holiday in Thailand, he had yet to contact the Royal Thai Navy, but hoped to do so next week.
Phuketwan journalists Morison and Khun Chutima appeared before Thailand's Human Rights Commission on April 4 when several members of the panel raised doubts about the Computer Crimes Act and whether it was intended for use by the military to sue the media.
The landmark case has prompted interest and support from around the world and in Thailand for the international award-winning Phuketwan reporters.
Both the criminal defamation process and the Computer Crimes Act have been criticised as not being appropriate for democracies.
Bail for the two journalists was provided by the Andaman Community Rights and Legal Aid Centre, based in Trang province. Other groups and organisations also offered financial help.
Some of the legal costs of the pair are being met by the London-based Media Legal Defence Initiative.
In Thailand, a group of more than 10 lawyers have teamed up to provide legal counsel. They include the Human Rights Lawyers' Association, iLaw and SR Law.
Awareness of the issues involved is now growing rapidly in Thailand and the case was front-page news in more than one Thai-language newspaper today.
The Phuketwan journalists say they have done nothing wrong and that standard procedure in cases where people felt aggrieved by an article was to telephone the journalists to seek a correction or hold a media conference to express a different point of view.
Phuketwan has offered the Royal Thai Navy unlimited space to explain its actions regarding the law suit and the treatment of Rohingya boatpeople, without editing and without any response from Phuketwan
Phuketwan is marking the 30-day countdown to the 30th anniversary of the World Media Freedom Day on May 3 with news outlets around the world.