The two journalists are due to appear in court on May 26 in Phuket, Southern Thailand, to face charges alleging criminal libel and violation of the 2007 Computer Crimes Act.
''The criminal prosecution of Ms Chutima and Mr Morison is a serious case of judicial harassment that aims at silencing two brave and professional journalists. The Thai Navy's response is disproportionate and underscores the need to repeal Thailand's criminal defamation laws,'' said FIDH President Karim Lahidji.
The criminal proceedings against Chutima and Morison stem from a July 17, 2013 post on the Phuket Wan website that quoted parts of a special report published by the international news agency Reuters on the same day. In its report, Reuters alleged that Thai naval forces were involved in the trafficking of Rohingya boat people in Southern Thailand.
If found guilty of the charges, the two journalists face up to seven years under Article 328 of the Thai Criminal Code (libel) and Article 14(1) of the Computer Crimes Act in addition to a 100,000-baht (about 2260 Euros) fine. Article 14(1) of the Computer Crimes Act relates to offences that involve the ''import to a computer system of forged computer data, either in whole or in part, or false computer data, in a manner that is likely to cause damage to that third party or the public.''
''Thailand must urgently decriminalise libel and defamation and bring all laws related to freedom of expression in line with its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,'' Mr Lahidji added.
Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Thailand is a state party, guarantees the right to freedom of expression, including the ''freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas of all kinds.''
The UN Human Rights Committee (HRC), in its General Comment No. 34 to Article 19 of the ICCPR, stated that defamation laws should not be used to stifle freedom of expression. The HRC also said that the application of criminal defamation laws should only be allowed in the most serious cases and that ???imprisonment is never an appropriate penalty.''
''The use of oppressive laws to target journalists and media outlets is the primary cause in the decline of Thailand's media freedom. For many years, Phuket Wan has been a reliable and accurate source of information on the plight of the Rohingya boat people,'' said UCL Chairman Jaturong Boonyarattanasoontorn.
''Instead of initiating a lawsuit against Ms Chutima and Mr Morison, the Thai Navy should conduct a thorough and impartial investigation into the credible allegations of trafficking of Rohingya raised by the Reuters report,'' he added.