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A captain is pursuing the case on behalf of the Royal Thai Navy

'We Urge the Court Not to Proceed With This Improper Complaint'

Wednesday, April 16, 2014
REPORTERS Without Borders reiterates its call for the withdrawal of all proceedings against two journalists who are to be tried tomorrow in the southwestern province of Phuket on charges of contravening the Computer Crimes Act and defaming the Royal Thai Navy for quoting from a Reuters special report on the smuggling of Rohingya refugees from neighboring Burma.

The two journalists are Alan Morison, the Australian editor of the Phuket-based news website Phuketwan, and Chutima Sidasathian, a Thai reporter who works for the site.

The case was brought by Naval Captain Panlob Komtonlok with the support of Admiral Polawat Sirodom, the navy's deputy commander.

Morison and Chutima are facing a possible five-year jail sentence and fine of 100,000 baht (3000 US dollars) under the Computer Crimes Act and another two years in prison for criminal defamation.

''Taking Phuketwan's journalists to court is absurd,'' said Benjamin Ismael, the head of the Reporters Without Borders Asia-Pacific desk.

''If the navy want to dispute the Reuters special report, which has just won a Pulitzer Prize, it can publicly give its version of events and demand the right of reply.

''By using the Computer Crimes Act to intimidate journalists, the navy is just making it obvious that it wants to conceal this sensitive information and deter any comments on this humanitarian scandal.

''We urge the court not to proceed with this improper complaint.''

Ismael added: ''This case highlights the urgent need for reform of the Computer Crimes Act, which is responsible for frequent violations of freedom of information by the authorities.

''It is also essential that the international media operating in Thailand should give this trial extensive coverage despite government pressure to ignore it.''

The special report by Reuters journalists Jason Szep and Andrew R.C. Marshall on Thai trafficking in Burma's refugees was awarded a Pulitzer Prize on March 14 for ''courageous'' reporting on the Rohingya and the ''predatory human-trafficking networks'' to which they often fall prey.

Phuketwan has meanwhile begun a symbolic countdown to May 3, World Press Freedom Day.

Thailand is ranked 130th out of 180 countries in the 2014 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.

No Response to Phuketwan From Reuters


REUTERS has not responded to an email from Phuketwan seeking support for the principle of media freedom.

Phuketwan journalists face seven years' jail for republishing a Reuters paragraph that was part of the Pulitzer-winning series.

Reuters has not been charged. Nor have other organisations that republished the same paragraph.

Another journalist who asked similar questions received the following response yesterday from a Reuters spokesperson:

''Reuters' special report, which was the product of extensive reporting, is fair, balanced and contextualized. It looks broadly at the exodus of the Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar to Thailand. We wish to emphasize that Reuters' story does not single out the Thai Royal Navy, but explores the responsibility of all involved in patrolling the Thai seas and provides their perspectives. Reuters' report can be found here: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/07/17/us-myanmar-exodus-specialreport-idUSBRE96G02520130717''

The Reuters' journalists deserve praise for their Rohingya coverage. Perhaps it's now time they advised Reuters' corporate spokespeople about the principles of media freedom.

Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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We thanked to Benjamin Ismael, the head of the Reporters Without Borders Asia-Pacific desk, for intervening in favor of Phuketwan's reporters .This is all the intellectuals moral obligation to voice out for justice . This is times for praying for our beloved and respected Morison and Chutima .

Posted by Maung Kyaw Nu,Burmese Rohingya Association in Thailand ,BRAT. on April 17, 2014 04:19

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So Reuters,you are not going to stand up for two journalists that have printed your statements ? Shame on you , you are not worthy journalists !

Thanks again to Phuketwan for not being afraid !

Posted by Elizabeth on April 17, 2014 05:29

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As an ex journo myself, reuters your award is tainted with self interest as oposed to true investigation and revealing journalism. Only the awards earned by Alan and Chutima are held in the highest esteam in the media arena.
Alan and Chutima and Phuketwan thank you for making a stand and having the true spirit of investigative journalists. I stand by you any day. Good fortune for today.

Posted by Graham on April 17, 2014 08:25

Editor Comment:

Thanks, Graham.

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I concur fully with the three previous comments.

Posted by Pete on April 17, 2014 09:39

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Elizabeth, as much as we would like to see Reuters "stand up" for our PW repoters, there could be legal reason why they do not, after all, and many seem to have forgotten, by their own reporters have also been charged.

Posted by Laurie Howells on April 17, 2014 10:58

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I still live in hope that sanity will prevail & the navy will find a face saving way to drop their case. Good luck Alan & Chutima. You did nothing wrong.

Posted by Logic on April 17, 2014 12:29


Tuesday December 19, 2017
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