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Phuket Defamation Case an Assault on Thailand Press Freedom

Friday, July 10, 2015
THE International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins its Australian affiliate the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA) in condemning the charges and the impending court case against Australian journalist Alan Morison and Thai journalist Chutima Sidasathian, both of the online news web site phuketwan.com.

The IFJ and MEAA today called on the Thai Government to immediately drop all charges against the pair.

The charges relate to the reproduction on phuketwan.com of a single paragraph from a Reuters special report on Rohingya boatpeople published in July 2013.

Reuters subsequently won a Pulitzer Prize for the investigation in 2014.

The journalists were charged with criminal defamation on April 17, 2014, under articles 326 and 328 of the Thai Criminal Code. The charges carry a maximum penalty of two years imprisonment and a fine of up to 200,000 baht (US$6000).

They were also charged with ; and violation of article 14(1) of the Computer Crimes Act, which carries a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment and a fine of up to 100,000 baht (US$3000).

Next week, on July 14, Morison and Sidasathian will face the Phuket Provincial Court. Following a three day trial, the judge is expected to consider a verdict for up to 30 days.

Since the military takeover of the country in May 2014, the IFJ has documented the a steady decline in press freedom with the ruling military junta in Thailand continues to repress and stifle the role of the media and freedom of expression in Thailand.

Alan Morison said: ''We are content to leave the decision to Thai justice, although some people have some concerns about the potential for a negative outcome. We feel committed to make a stance for a free media in Thailand.

This case was wrong from the very beginning, with one or two officers acting on bad advice.''

MEAA CEO Paul Murphy said: ''This is an outrageous assault on press freedom. It is an appalling misuse of the law with the intent of silencing legitimate journalism.

''The action by the Royal Thai Navy has been rightly condemned by the United Nations, the International Commission of Jurists and human rights and freedom of expression groups around the world.

''MEAA urges the Thai authorities to step back from the brink of making a dreadful decision and, instead, focus on the need for cooperation across the region to deal with the tragic plight of the Rohingya people.''

The IFJ said: ''The charges against Alan Morison and Chutima Sidasathian are a blatant attack intended to intimidate and silence Thailand's media - over the reprinting of an item of news that was a legitimate and now award-winning Reuters investigation into the Thai navy.

''This case must be condemned in the strongest possible terms and we strongly call for common sense to prevail and for all charges to be dropped.''

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 134 countries

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0946

Comments

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Thailand's reputation is already at an all-time low, no doubt the authorities are willing to accept the consequences of their actions should journalists in general be imprisoned for doing their job.

Of course this is not about freedom of speech, this is about loss of face. Phukewan, was a convenient target, since the authorities had little hope of pursing Reuters, they picked on them instead.

Posted by reader on July 10, 2015 06:06

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Hi Ed

This well known quote seems appropriate:

"We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must - at that moment - become the center of the universe."

- Elie Wiesel

Posted by Ian Yarwood on July 10, 2015 13:14

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I don't believe Thailand gives a hoot about foreign opinion of its supposed reputation. It does what it wants when it wants. You either like & respect that or you don't. So long as tourists of some (any) nationality keep coming, it makes no impact.

Posted by Logic on July 10, 2015 16:07


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