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Detail from a cartoon on The Nation online this afternoon. To see the whole cartoon, click on the link at the end of the article

Phuket Defamation Case: Reporters Set for Court or Jail Next Month

Tuesday, December 24, 2013
PHUKET: Two journalists from Phuket are likely to face court early next month and be forced to decide whether to go to jail to fight the use of contentious laws by the Royal Thai Navy.

A hastily-called ''Freedom of the Media'' seminar in Bangkok on Thursday is likely to win the pair more support from journalists, academics and human rights advocates throughout Thailand.

The use of criminal defamation coupled with the Computer Crimes Act is believed to be the first time the military in Thailand has sued the media. It's a step that would bring widespread criticism in most democracies.

Alan Morison and Chutima Sidasathian of the Phuketwan online news site allegedly damaged the reputation of the Royal Thai Navy in publishing a paragraph from a special report on the Rohingya boatpeople by the Reuters news agency on July 17.

The same day, a representative from the Royal Thai Navy lodged a complaint at Vichit Police Station on Phuket that led to the criminal defamation suit. The action by the navy has brought international condemnation from the world's leading media rights and human rights groups.

Morison and Khun Chutima, now facing a maximum of five years' jail and/or a 100,000 baht fine, were interviewed for three hours today at the same police station.

The case against them is being handled by one Vichit policeman while an officer at the next desk is processing a similar action against the two news agency authors and Reuters over their special report.

''We were told today that our case is likely to reach court early in January,'' Morison said. ''We may have to decide at that point whether to apply for bail or to go straight to jail.''

If the pair went straight to jail, Phuketwan - a daily source of news for about 10,000 mostly expat readers in Thailand and around the world - would be forced to close.

Morison and Khun Chutima believe that Phuketwan and Reuters are being sued by the Navy because of their work in exposing the inhumane treatment of Rohingya boatpeople in secret jungle transit camps and at the hands of human traffickers in Thailand.

Escapers from the camps have recently told of deaths almost every day because of the appalling conditions, rapes of Rohingya women and torture to extort money in telephone calls to relatives.

''It's impossible for this nightmare to be happening without the knowledge and help of Thai officials and some officers in uniform,'' Morison said. ''Somebody wants to shut us up.''

Britain's Channel 4, the Bangkok Post, the BBC, the Japanese television service NHK, Agence France Press, Associated Press and Australia's ABC have also been active in exposing the shameful treatment of the Rohingya.

Thursday's two-hour seminar from 10am at the Thai Journalists' Association offices in Bangkok is likely to bring together journalists, human rights activists, academics and media rights advocates.

Discussion is bound to focus on first-hand reports of the action against Phuketwan, concerns of further use of the onerous laws against the media, and the plight of the Rohingya.

Morison said today that the Royal Thai Navy's action appeared to be based on one paragraph from the Reuters report that had been poorly translated to make the navy seem to be more of a victim.

Morison says Phuketwan journalists have always admired the Navy on Phuket. All that officers had to do if they had a grievance was to telephone, issue a media release or hold a press conference ''in the normal way,'' he said.

For information about the ''Freedom of the Media'' seminar, e: thipvimon@gmail.com or telephone 085 0440234.

The Full Cartoon from The Nation:

http://www.nationmultimedia.com/specials/nationphoto/show.php?id=30&pid=16667/

Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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So glad to hear you won't be in prison for Christmas. Wishing you all the best of luck for the court hearing.

Posted by Phil on December 24, 2013 23:44

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I love the cartoon! Also the ones on the site linked!

Posted by Sean on December 25, 2013 00:23

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We are very much disturbed of this inhuman case against reputable two journalists of Phuketwan. This case is against humanity and freedom of expression .Since June 2013 ,Rohingya have been subjected hidden genocide in their own land in Burma. Hundreds of Rohingyas were killed , but due to lack of freedom of press in Burma ,the real massacre news was not come out to the world. Burma is known as dark country where every freedom were stolen by the dictatorial regime. But ,we are enjoying freedom of press out side the Burma. Now we are very upset of present disturbance of press freedom in Thailand due to defamation case against the journalists. It needs to be settled before going to court hearing. We thank to all journalists including Phuketwan who are continue highlighting news about fearful trafficking and plights of Rohingyas.This is the ethic of journalism . We can not read any news of Rohingyas boat people in this week due to this trouble. MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL.

Posted by Maung Kyaw Nu,President,Burmese Rohingya Association in Thailand (BRAT) on December 25, 2013 02:23

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Love the cartoons - fantastic.

Merry Christmas to Phuketwan and keep up the good fight.

Posted by Ciaran on December 25, 2013 09:25

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If the Thai authorities do this, then there will be serious international repucussions. Thailand does not want to go down this road, and be clubbed with other countries that hinder freedom of speech. They are already in the news for the wrong reasons, and they need this added attention like a hole in the head. My advice to Thailand is drop the charges before you really get out of your depths !

Posted by reader on December 25, 2013 09:47

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Glad to see they are also taking Reuters on. BIG mistake. These ill-advised officials are about to see just how little the outside world care to kowtow. Good luck Alan and Chutima.

Posted by Mr Man on December 25, 2013 10:30

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Just give them some sassy lip like you do to commenters,ED. That's always worked for you. Happy Holidays! 55555

Posted by Anonymous on December 26, 2013 10:02

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Alan you must take that comment box of green, fill it with facts and hit them with that. Wishing you and Khun Chutima all the best to win for press freedom in 2014.

Posted by Inepto Cracy on December 26, 2013 13:15


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