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Chutima Sidasathian (centre) delivers a letter to the Phuket Press Club

Phuket Damrungtam, Phuket Press Club Asked to Protect Thailand's Media Freedom

Friday, April 11, 2014
Countdown to World Media Freedom Day: Day 8

PHUKET: Phuketwan has presented a dossier on media freedom to the Phuket Damrungtam office, which serves as an Ombudsman on the holiday island.

The Phukets Press Club has also been asked to fully inform all readers and residents about the importance of the issue.

The Royal Thai Navy, which has a base on Phuket, is suing two Phuketwan journalists for republishing one paragraph from a Reuters special report on the Rohingya boatpeople.

Criminal defamation and the equally contentious Computer Crimes Act are being applied in what's seen as a case that's the first of its kind in Thailand. In democracies, the military usually does not sue the media.

No action has been taken against Reuters or several other Thai media outlets that republished the same paragraph, in the Thai language. The case is being investigated by Thailand's Human Rights Commission and has been criticised by local and international rights bodies.

A letter accompanying the dossier to the Damrungtam office says: ''We are local journalists, based on Phuket, and proud to try to make the island a better place for both residents and tourists.

''We publish articles that alert people to factual information about issues of public interest.''

The letter goes on to say that Thailand's laws enshrine the rights of the media to report, unfettered or impeded by the government or its agents. Media freedom is one of the basics of democracy, the letter says.

After presenting the documents to Damrungtam Director Praphan Khanprasang, Phuketwan journalist Chutima Sidasathian met with Phuket Press Club president Boonrat Apiwanthanakorn.

She asked Khun Praphan to ensure the issues surrounding the case - so far one of the biggest running issues of the year in Thailand - were examined by Phuket journalists so that all residents and visitors understood the importance of media freedom.

The case has been widely reported nationally and internationally, but not covered on Phuket.

Journalists Alan Morison and Khun Chutima face the Phuket Provincial Court on April 17.

Phuketwan is taking part in a 30-day countdown to the 30th anniversary of World Media Freedom Day on May 3.

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