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Phuket Pair Visits Human Rights Commission at Start of 30-Day Campaign Against Navy's Defamation Action

Phuket Pair Visits Human Rights Commission at Start of 30-Day Campaign Against Navy's Defamation Action

Thursday, April 3, 2014
PHUKET: Two Phuketwan journalists meet in Bangkok with representatives of Thailand's Human Rights Commission tomorrow at the start of a 30-day campaign to highlight World Media Freedom Day.

A media conference for Thai and international media will be held before tomorrow's meeting.

Phuket journalists Alan Morison and Chutima Sidasathian face a fine and possibly long jail terms in a landmark action by the Royal Thai Navy using criminal defamation and the controversial Computer Crimes Act.

The case was brought after Phuketwan republished word for word a paragraph from a special report by the Reuters news agency on the Rohingya boatpeople in July last year.

No charges have so far been laid against Reuters or several other Thai media outlets that republished versions of the Reuters report.

''We plan over the next 30 days to explain to Thai citizens and the world how wrong it is for the military to sue the media in a democracy,'' Morison said today.

''The Navy could have avoided putting Thailand's reputation at risk by simply making one telephone call. Apparently they are too shy to ring the media.''

Phuketwan's 30-day countdown to World Media Freedom Day on May 3 is being run with the Australian journalists' union and the International Federation of Journalists, which has 600,000 affiliates.

''Sadly, this misguided legal action by the Royal Thai Navy is likely to damage Thailand's reputation as a democracy,'' Morison said. ''Navies in democracies don't sue the media.

''We have universal support. If the Navy fails to see sense, we aim to go to jail in protest if necessary. We are preparing to fight this case all the way to the Supreme Court.''

Morison said that most Thai citizens would be surprised and alarmed when they learn what the Royal Thai Navy is doing.

''The Navy is a good organisation but they've taken some bad advice from one or two individuals,'' he said.

''This mistaken court action by the Navy will draw attention to the need to repeal these bad laws. At the same time, our campaign will also alert more people to the appalling treatment of the Rohingya refugees.''

Phuketwan plans to publish coverage of abuses of media freedom in Thailand and around the world every day for the entire 30 days, as well as updates on the treatment of Rohingya.

''These laws are not made for the military to intimidate the media,'' Morison said.

'The Computer Crimes Act in particular is being abused to make unfair attacks against investigative journalists and activists, including Britons Andrew Drummond and Andy Hall.

''We hope our campaign will not only make the Navy realise its mistake but also lead to these bad laws being killed.''

Phuketwan is being provided with legal advice from several Thai legal groups. A London-based NGO, the Media Legal Defence Initiative, is helping with funding.

Friday's media conference is at 10.30am at the National Human Rights Commission, Chaeng Watthana.

Morison and Khun Chutima meet with the Commissioner of the National Human Human Rights Commission of Thailand, Dr Niran Pitakwatchara.

On April 11, Morison and Khun Chutima address the International Business Association of Phuket. Later this month, Khun Chutima speaks at a seminar at Sydney University and the Melbourne Press Club.

A speaking tour of Europe and Japan is being planned - provided Khun Chutima is not in Phuket Prison.

Comments

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By taking the high road of courtesy towards the Navy, Mr. Morison has demonstrated himself to be astute and clever under heat, rising above the fray of pettiness. The Thai Navy will hopefully back down, as Alan has does nothing to make them lose face. They lost face all by themselves, by dint of the actions of an internal zealot. Now the international media has raised it's collective eyebrows, and the Navy is only too well aware of that. It's a classic case of journalism teamwork. Well done Alan and Chutima. This will be the start of media transparency in Thailand. Once the foot is in the door, more positive change is sure to follow. Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither will media transparency in Thailand. Phuketwan has shone the light in the darkness, and the darkness will fade by degrees.

Posted by Dean on April 3, 2014 21:18

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Dean, no really argument, with what you say, but with regards to "loss of face." Thais do not see a "loss of face" as being caused by what they say or by their own actions, they "lose face" by someone else questioning/challenging their actions, ideas, motives etc, or bettering them e.g. intellectually, sports, being if front on the road etc.

Posted by Laurie Howells on April 4, 2014 08:57


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