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Phuketwan's Chutima Sidasathian at the University of Sydney

Thailand Asked to Celebrate Media Freedom

Tuesday, April 22, 2014
Countdown to World Media Freedom Day: Day 19

PHUKET: Phuketwan journalist Chutima Sidasathian made a plea at the University of Sydney today for a democratic Thailand to commit to media freedom.

Ms Chutima, who is also a PhD candidate, spoke out before delivering an academic paper on Rohingya boatpeople at the International Conference on Thai Studies.

Thailand was adrift from the truth, she said, with the Royal Thai Navy seeking to punish two Phuketwan journalists using the much criticised Computer Crimes Act and criminal defamation.

She and Australian journalist Alan Morison face up to seven years in jail for republishing just one paragraph from a Reuters special report series that last week won journalism's highest accolade, a Pulitzer Prize.

Reuters has not been charged and has yet to defend the Phuketwan journalists or its paragraph.

The International Conference on Thai Studies is held every three years, hosted either by a Thai university or by a university outside of Thailand where there is an interest in Thai studies.

The three-day conference celebrates the University of Sydney's long-standing connection with Thailand. Ms Chutima is also due to speak at the Melbourne Press Club on April 29.

Here is the plea that Ms Chutima made today in Sydney:

THE AUTHOR George Orwell wrote: ''The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those that speak it.''

Today the country I love with all my heart, Thailand, is adrift from the truth, just as surely as Rohingya boatpeople drift from persecution in Burma.

Last week I spent time in a cell under Phuket Provincial Court. Soon my trial begins for daring to report what is happening in Thailand to the Rohingya.

My Australian colleague, Alan Morison, faces the same penalty. To those of you who believe Thailand is growing as a democracy, we say: think again.

In democracies, the military does not sue the media. Our crime was to republish one paragraph from a Reuters report.

By strange coincidence, in the week we spent time in the cells, Reuters won the Pulitzer prize for its coverage of the Rohingya issue.

We wish Reuters would now defend its paragraph and speak out on our behalf.

We also wish the Royal Thai Navy would reconsider using undemocratic laws to silence the media.

The 30th anniversary of World Media Freedom Day falls on May 3.

I call upon my Government to celebrate the occasion, to drop this case, and to prove to everyone that Thailand still believes in truth and freedom.

Thank you.

Khun Chutima is also due to speak at the Melbourne Press Club on April 29. Speaking trips to Japan and Europe are being planned.

Ms Chutima shared the 2010 Society of Publishers in Asia Excellence in Investigative Reporting and Excellence in Human Rights Reporting awards. In 2009 she shared the Scoop of the Year at the Hong Kong News Awards and the general news prize at the Human Rights Press Awards in Hong Kong.

Phuketwan is marking the 30-day countdown to the 30th anniversary of World Media Freedom Day on May 3 with news outlets around the world.

Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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PhuketWan used to be a valuable addition to the Phuket media, unfortunately the level of self promotion has risen to new heights, overshadowing the reporting.

Posted by stevenl on April 22, 2014 13:42

Editor Comment:

You are confusing self-promotion with fighting for our existence, stevenl. We are doing this with our backs to the wall because there are readers like you who praise us when they get something of value for free yet moan when things go wrong. Your views are warped and self-interested, just like some of the other players in this sorry saga. Do send your large subscription fee. If not, go elsewhere, please.

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You've picked a great school, with very good Thai classes I might add. I hope you enjoy your time in Sydney. Make sure you visit Thaitown there.

Posted by It's too late on April 22, 2014 13:47

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I do have to agree to a certain extend with Steven. I mean, how much more attention are you trying to distract from this? The saying goes: he had his five minutes of fame. But you are going way overboard with this. I was reading that you spend 5 hours in a cell, and in this article it says, " Last week I spent time in a cell under Phuket Provincial Court." And the next thing you write is: in the week we spent time in the cells, Reuters won the Pulitzer prize for its coverage of the Rohingya issue. Are you trying to make it more exiting? Things went spiraling downwards, when the article came out that PW was for sale, and that it was hard to keep the site running on a small budget. Has Heinecke not been charitable yet towards you guys?

Posted by Charles on April 22, 2014 14:33

Editor Comment:

We have sympathy and support from the UN, from Human Rights Watch, from Reporters Without Borders, from the Committee to Protect Journalists, from the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand, from UNESCO, from the Southeast Asian Press Alliance, from Thailand's Human Rights Commission, from the European Union, from the Australian and British ambassadors, and from virtually everyone who understands the principles of democracy and a free media. The exceptions are you, stephenl and reuters. We feel sad for reuters. You and stephen? Well, the opinions of faceless online commenters are worthless. Stop wasting my time, please.

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"Do send your large subscription fee. If not, go elsewhere, please."
Sorry, no subscription fee, as I said, you used to be valuable. Going elsewhere though, yes, that seems a viable alternative.

Posted by stevenl on April 22, 2014 14:33

Editor Comment:

Extremely pleased to hear it. I'll help you to not change your mind. Goodbye.

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How can you defend the media freedom, if you say that all the online commenters who don't show their face are worthless? So, does everybody has to update his/her profile to make sure that you and your little gang can see who's writing a comment? Come of your high horse, man. Why do you want to see my face? Do you want to become a pen-pal or so?

Posted by Charles on April 22, 2014 15:15

Editor Comment:

Nothing you write adds value, Charles. I don't have time to waste. Say something meaningful or butt out. Nobody cares about your opinions.

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Not to be fussy, but has anybody recently looked at the ASEAN official website?
The Thailand
Head of Government : Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva?
Wow up to date I say... not.
Maybe B and T should be left out of it for the time being due to human rights abuses? Then there would be 8 left.

Posted by Robin on April 22, 2014 17:48

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The Phuketwan journalists are not only major highlighters of Rohingya boat people but preachers of Rohingya's pain around the world . We highly applauded their noble job for forgotten Rohingya community . At present Phuketwan journalist Chutima Sidasathian made a plea at the University of Sydney today for a democratic Thailand to commit to media freedom.
Ms Chutima, who is also a PhD candidate, spoke out before delivering an academic paper on Rohingya boatpeople at the International Conference on Thai Studies.

Their noble job for the Rohingya is noted . They are always in our thought and pray .

Posted by Maung Kyaw Nu,Burmese Rohingya Association in Thailand ,BRAT. on April 22, 2014 18:04

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Hello editor. I see you often mention subscriptions. Please make your bank account details available.

Keep up the work for the Rohingya. You don't need my praise. You already know that what you are doing is noble, right and brave.

Thank you.
Mark.

Posted by markthalang on April 22, 2014 23:04

Editor Comment:

Thanks, Mark. I mention subscriptions in jest but we appreciate your moral support. It's always a pleasant change from the blockheads.

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I personally cannot understand anyone sniping at Alan & Chutima!

I was hired to do a specific job & then fired for doing it too well; or maybe my direct outspokenness scared certain individuals. All it cost me was my job.

Alan & Chutima in my eyes have done a good job & it might cost them more - their freedom! They need our fullest support. In their shoes, I would be terrified.

Posted by Logic on April 22, 2014 23:19

Editor Comment:

We were terrified in 2009 but the military behaved impeccably then because they knew we were right. Using bad laws against is is an indication of the change in thinking in the Royal Thai Navy over the past five years. We've done nothing wrong.

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Freedom is not free. Somewhere somebody pays the piper. Alan and Chutima should not even be in this act of tragidy. The real persons who should be under investigation in the article saga, should be Reuters, their reporters and the Thai interpreter of the article.
When that happens I will celebrate press freedom day. Until then I will stand by Alan and Chutima in their case of false acusations. I too have been tortured and beaten by opressive regimes because of fighting for media freedom, in the 1980's.

Posted by Graham on April 23, 2014 06:08

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The pack mentality of frustrated expat rears its' ugly head again, against a journalist trying to change things for them, for the better. Bullying the editor won't deter him from trying to save Rohingya lives. Some people must be jealous of the limelight they didn't ask for.

Posted by Dean on April 23, 2014 09:08

Editor Comment:

There's a few others, Dean, who don't even make it to print. Some of them even seem to think their words are scary! Blockheads, all of them. Happy to let them waste their time.
Of course Phuketwan is forced to adapt and to spend an increasing amount of time defending ourselves. Of course we don't have enough time for now to update as we once did. After Thailand wins back media freedom and the Rohingya are legitimate citizens, we'll deal with corruption on Phuket, have no fear.


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