MELBOURNE: Journalists across Australia have been urged to ask the news agency Reuters to ''pay more attention'' to the controversial criminal defamation action against Phuketwan instigated by the Royal Thai Navy.
The case centres on just one paragraph from Reuters' Pulitzer-prize-winning series that Phuketwan republished in excerpts from a special report on the Rohingya boatpeople in July last year.
The Royal Thai Navy is suing Phuketwan, a small Phuket-based online news outlet that has won international awards for its coverage of Thailand's approach to the Rohingya issue.
However Phuket police, acting on the Navy's criminal defamation complaint, have yet to take action against Reuters or several other Thai media outlets that published the same paragraph, in the Thai language.
''They [Reuters] are a large media organisation and they are obliged to stand in solidarity with smaller organisations that run their copy,'' Louise Connor, the Victorian state secretary of the Australian journalists' union, the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance, told an event organised by the Melbourne Press Club yesterday.
She called on journalists in Australia to ask Reuters to pay more attention to the Phuketwan case.
Reuters owed Phuketwan reporter Chutima Sidasathian even more support because she worked for them as a ''fixer'' on the Pulitzer-prize winning series, Ms Connor said.
She added that it was ''a pity that first world media companies didn't more fully recognise the role of fixers in getting their prize-winning stories.''
The other journalist charged by the Royal Thai Navy is Phuketwan editor Alan Morison. He said today that Reuters was briefed at length about Phuketwan's seven-year experience covering the Rohingya issue and used Khun Chutima's extensive knowledge to go straight to key people who could tell them what they needed to know.
''We were generous with Reuters, as we have been with all organisations covering the Rohingya boatpeople,'' Morison said.
''However, the minute I told a Reuters journalist in December that Phuketwan journalists were being charged and action was likely to follow against Reuters, the news agency began treating us like lepers,'' he said.
''We were delighted that Reuters won a Pulitzer because it was good work and it gave exposure to the Rohingya issue.
''But the Reuters 'corporate media brand' seems to exclude taking responsibility for their own material - even when we face seven years' jail over one Reuters paragraph, republished word-for-word.''
Khun Chutima spoke at yesterday's Melbourne Press Club gathering. The lunch was attended by more than 70 people, including working journalists, NGO representatives and media students from Melbourne University.
She is due to speak in Bangkok next week. Visits to Europe and Japan are being planned.
The Royal Thai Navy has yet to accept an offer to explain its approach to media freedom and the Rohingya boatpeople in Phuketwan.
Phuketwan journalists Alan Morison and Chutima Sidasathian appear in court for trial on May 26. Phuketwan is marking the 30-day countdown to the 30th anniversary of the World Media Freedom Day on May 3 with news outlets around the world.
Yingluck Must Call a Halt to Phuketwan Case:
Phuket journalists call on Thai authorities to drop defamation case
Australian journalist Alan Morison and his colleague Chutima Sidasathian from Phuketwan have asked Thai authorities to drop a defamation case which charges them with defaming the Thai navy. Zoe Daniel speaks with Chutima Sidasathian.
Rohingya: The Hidden Victims Of Burma's Ethnic Violence
ONE OF Sweden's prime time television shows, Agenda, covered the Rohingya issue this week. The Rohingya item begins soon after the 30.00 minute mark (Key points in English)
English Language Version:
Nation Cartoon in Full: