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United Nations Human Rights Office Urges Thailand to Drop Charges Against Phuketwan Journalists

Tuesday, July 14, 2015
BANGKOK: The United Nations Human Rights Office for South-East Asia (OHCHR) is highly concerned with the ongoing trials of two Phuketwan journalists for reporting on smuggling of Rohingya and the alleged involvement of the Royal Thai Navy in Southern Thailand.

From 14 to 16 July, Mr. Alan Morison and Ms. Chutima Sidasathian will be standing trial at the Phuket Provincial Court for publishing an article which quoted an investigative report by Reuters on the smuggling of Rohingya asylum seekers. The charges were filed by the Royal Thai Navy.

The article was published in Phuketwan, a small English-language newspaper based in Phuket, on 17 July 2013.

The two journalists face charges of criminal defamation and violation of the Computer Crime Act. If convicted, Mr. Morison and Ms Sidassathian face up to five years in prison.

Phuketwan has been a leading source of information on the plight of Rohingya asylum seekers since 2008.

International human rights standards uphold the right of journalists and others to disseminate information that is of legitimate public interest.

In April 2015, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression raised concern that there have been increasing arrests and prosecutions under the Computer Crime Act and called for an end to criminalisation of dissenting opinions.

As a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Thailand has the obligation to uphold the right to freedom of expression (article 19).

The UN Human Rights Committee has outlined that ''[s]tates parties should consider the decriminalisation of defamation'' and ''the application of criminal law should only be countenanced in the most serious of cases and imprisonment is never an appropriate penalty''.

OHCHR urges the Thai authorities to drop the charges against the two journalists.

Freedom of the press, including freedom for journalists to operate without fear of reprisals, is essential in promoting transparency and accountability on issues of public interest.

About OHCHR

THE Regional Office for South-East Asia in Bangkok represents the High Commissioner for Human Rights within South East Asia. The High Commissioner for Human Rights is the principal human rights official of the United Nations and heads the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for
Human Rights, which spearheads the United Nations' human rights efforts .

OHCHR website: http://www.ohchr.org

Statement from Human Rights Watch


Statement attributable to Phil Robertson, Deputy Director, Asia Division, Human Rights Watch on the trial of Phuketwan journalists Alan Morison and Chutima Sidasathian in Thailand on July 14-16 - in Phuket Provincial Court.

''The fact that these two journalists are even on trial is a scathing indictment of the Thai government's unwillingness to respect media freedom and clear indicator of how far and fast the environment for free expression has deteriorated under military rule. Prime Minister Gen. Prayuth should have ordered the Navy to stand down and withdraw the charges - but instead he effectively endorsed their effort to gag media critics, and in doing so, administered another body blow to what little remains of Thailand's international rights reputation. The real message of this trial to Thailand's journalists is report at your own risk because big brother in Bangkok is watching - but fortunately, when they went after Alan and Chutima, the Navy and the ruling military junta came up against two courageous journalists who are not afraid to fight for their principles. They deserve the international community's unstinting support. They certainly have Human Rights Watch's support.''

Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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I'm afraid to comment. I live here.

Posted by Anonymous on July 15, 2015 05:32

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I also heard on BBC News Yesterday about this case that two Journalist in Thailand Alan and Chutima have copied an article from Reuters and become sued by the Thai Navy. Very Glad that the whole world is following this trial. Will be a Hard time for Thailand Authorities. Good Luck Alan and Khun Chutima

Posted by Mj on July 15, 2015 09:52

Editor Comment:

Thank you mj

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The Navy has been very willing from early on to drop the defamation case against them, if they would simply apologize for the report.

Posted by Sun on July 15, 2015 16:54

Editor Comment:

You need to learn more about the case, Sun. The Navy wants us to apologise so the criminal defamation charge can be negotiated but the Computer Crimes Act count with the five-year maximum has to proceed so we are being asked to plead guilty for something we haven't done. Are you in the habit of apologising when you haven't spilled the sugar? Were you bullied at school?

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In my personal opinion, to save the face of both side, Thai Navy and Phuketwan.com, the court will deliver a small fine and a suspended jail sentence with a probation for several years and Phuketwan.com will be able to continue to be published as well that Alan Morison will be able to live and work in Thailand.
Thailand is a perfect country for fair compromise.

Posted by WhistleBlower on July 15, 2015 17:51

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How is the case proceeding? What is the likely outcome?

Let's hope the judge sees sense and acquits both.

Posted by Graham on July 16, 2015 13:39

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Whistleblower, nah, there is no room for a "fair" compromise. There is no middle ground. There is even no ground for one side to stand. There is only the law and the facts. Any outcome but a unconditional go free is in my opinion a farce and for a happy go lucky country like Thailand not worthy at all. Maybe if it were Malaysia or Burma. But it is Thailand. The by far best, friendliest, most free and greatest country in SE Asia.

Posted by Lena on July 16, 2015 16:41


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