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Time  Reuters Spoke  on Media Freedom

Time Reuters Spoke on Media Freedom

Wednesday, April 16, 2014
''BEING a journalist is not a crime. A free press is critically important. Journalists shouldn't be put on trial or locked up for doing their job.''
Tanya Plibersek
Australian Deputy Opposition Leader.

''THE THAI Navy should drop this lawsuit for many reasons. If for nothing else, many people would not even know about this situation if not for the lawsuit. (I knew about the Rohingya situation, but not the allegations with the Navy.) Thailand is a strong country. It does not need draconian media rules. Thailand will be even stronger with fewer rules.''
Michael Yon
International Reporter With the People's Democratic Reform Committee

PHUKET: Media freedom in Thailand remains an important issue and it really is time that the Pulitzer-prize winning Reuters news agency spoke up in defence of it, Phuketwan editor Alan Morison said today.

''We've been waiting since December for Reuters to take an active role in defence of Phuketwan's right to republish their copy,'' he said.

''After all, the paragraph over which reporter Chutima Sidasathian and I are being sued is a Reuters paragraph.

''Now that Reuters has deservedly won a Pulitzer for their excellent coverage of the Rohingya boatpeople issue, we hope they will speak out about media freedom in Thailand.

''In true democracies, the military doesn't sue the media. And the paragraph Phuketwan's journalists face jail over is a Reuters paragraph, written by Reuters' Pulitzer-winning journalists.''

Morison said that Reuters employed Chutima twice last year. She guided them to meet contacts in Thailand that she had established over seven years of covering the treatment of the Rohingya in Thailand.

''For four months now, Reuters has remained silent on the issue of Phuketwan being charged over a Reuters paragraph. It's time they spoke out, as many other organisations have done.

''Just like the Royal Thai Navy, Reuters appears interested only in its reputation, and unconcerned about the principle of media freedom in a democracy.

''I think that's unbecoming of a Pulitzer prize-winning organisation - especially as one of the people charged under these insidious laws contributed generously to Reuters' prize-winning coverage.''

Morison and Khun Chutima face a maximum penalty of seven years in jail. They are due to appear at Phuket Provincial Court tomorrow.

Phuketwan is taking part in a 30-day countdown to the 30th anniversary of World Media Freedom Day on May 3.

What Others Say

United Nations
''Criminal prosecution for defamation has a chilling effect on freedom of the press,'' said Ravina Shamdasani, the spokesperson for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. ''International standards are clear that imprisonment is never an appropriate penalty for defamation.''

Barb Burg, Reuters' global head of communications: ''Our story was fair and balanced and Reuters has not been accused of criminal libel.''

Human Rights Watch
''The Thai navy's lawsuit is a reckless attempt to curtail journalists' reporting on alleged human trafficking by its officers,'' said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. ''Unless the government withdraws the case, its impact will be felt far beyond those reporting on abuses against the Rohingya - and could have a choking effect on all investigative reporting in Thailand.''

Reporters Without Borders
"It is intolerable that journalists are being prosecuted for just doing their job by relaying information of general interest that had already been made public," Reporters Without Borders said. "Bringing charges under the controversial Computers Crimes Act in a defamation case is indicative of the critical state of freedom of information in Thailand and amounts to an attempt to gag the media. We support these journalists, who are facing a jail term, and we call for the immediate withdrawal of these proceedings."

Committee to Protect Journalists
''Rather than shooting the messenger, the Royal Thai Navy would be better suited launching an internal investigation into the serious allegations of abuse that have been raised,'' said Shawn Crispin, CPJ's senior Southeast Asia representative. ''This type of legal intimidation aims ultimately at discouraging media reporting on allegations of serious human rights abuses.''

Chris Lewa, director of the rights group the Arakan Project
''Thanks to the fair investigative reporting by the Phuketwan journalists, the involvement of various Thai agencies in the massive smuggling and trafficking operations of Rohingya refugees and their related miseries is no more a secret. Rights groups should unite to call on Thailand to quash these defamation charges.''

''We wish the Royal Thai Navy would clear its reputation by explaining precisely what is happening to the Rohingya in the Andaman Sea and in Thailand,'' Phuketwan said in a statement released in response to the charges. ''By instead using a controversial law against us, the Navy is, we believe, acting out of character.''

Bangkok Post
The action makes the navy look like a bully, and gives the impression the admirals would like to intimidate the media. Instead of defending the navy's honor, the criminal defamation suit holds it to question. Instead of silencing the media about the story - concerning the navy's role in the mistreatment of Rohingya boatpeople - the lawsuit repeats it, to more people and at greater length.

Morison said: "The navy's action over one paragraph has created a perfect storm. If the navy proceeds with the case, the Rohingya issue is now tied up in their action against media under a controversial law."

In the meantime, calmer seas mean that even more Rohingya are expected to attempt the treacherous journey in the weeks ahead. Nothing could gladden the traffickers more.

Bill Barnett (The Phuket Insider)
The issues which have drawn Phuketwan into this fray are profound and disturbing. There should be no need to wax over reality and respect needs to be given to those who stand up for the helpless who cannot help themselves.

Andrew Drummond (Investigative Journalist)
We should all support journalists who are doing a difficult job here under laws which best suit a totalitarian state.

Excellence in Human Rights Reporting, Investigative Reporting awards
In 2010 the Phuketwan team shared the Society of Publishers in Asia Award for Excellence in Investigative Reporting and a second Award for Excellence in Human Rights Reporting, with the South China Morning Post newspaper. Judges said of the Excellence in Investigative Reporting award: ''An excellent series that uncovered serious government abuses and had a material impact in correcting them. Exclusivity. Strong reporting. Hard-hitting piece with international implications.''

Of the Excellence in Human Rights Reporting award, the judges said: ''Excellent investigative work that exposed serious human rights abuses of oppressed people. Intrepid reporting of a hidden subject. This is a high-caliber series buttressed by solid on-the-ground reporting and great pictures. All militaries are challenging subjects for investigative reporters and Thailand's is no exception. The team clearly went to great lengths to get sources, break news, and provide the details that prodded the government into action.''


Comments have been disabled for this article.


I thought protecting your sources and supporting free speech was a basic tenet of journalistic integrity. I remain disturbed and disappointed that Reuters has chosen (to date) not to offer strong support for Phuket Wan. In fact, I would have expected them to offer much more, financial support and even legal support. Over the months this has drug on I have tried to contact several people I know in the Reuters Organization and each of them seem to be as confused as I am as to why they would not act. It is really more than disappointing, I am losing respect for them. That they 1) Won a Pulitzer for reporting on the very issue that Chutima helped them with 2) That they have ignored fellow journalists. Did they learn nothing from the Killing Fields and Cambodia? I wish they would at least acknowledge the support they got and explain why they are not doing anything. In the interim for both the sake of Phuket Wan and the people of Thailand I hope this resolved in your favor but regardless of the outcome Reuters has some explaining to do.

Posted by Martin on April 16, 2014 11:59

Editor Comment:

I don't think they want to be classified in the same category as the Royal Thai Navy - interested only in preserving their reputation. Everybody else, loud and clear, has spoken out in defence of media freedom. What a shame.


" Everybody else, loud and clear, has spoken out in defence of media freedom".

With the exception of course of a few of your crazy commenters.

Posted by Pete on April 16, 2014 13:47

Editor Comment:

The opinions of crazy commenters don't count, Pete. Never have, never will. I've given up reading them . . . my sides ache from laughing so much.


Nothing to worry about, the Thai justice system is fair for everybody.

Posted by Sailor on April 16, 2014 17:15


Sometimes a person can't help others, because they can't meet their own needs. The needs of Reuter's have been more than met, with the most prestigious journalism award in the world. Yet they stay silent on the Phuketwan issue. It begs the question,what the he-- are they waiting for? They have already bit the hand that feeds ( Phuketwan ),so the optics are terrible. Their needs are met, so F--- off? It's lamer than a two- legged dog dragging it's ass in key clone yii loy khrap!

Posted by Dean on April 16, 2014 21:02


Just saw this maybe the tide is turning! Good luck.

Posted by martin on April 17, 2014 08:22

Editor Comment:

Yes, Sadly for Thailand, this action is going to damage the country's reputation. What's happening on Phuket is being watched and noted all around the world.


Just read on Pulitzer web site Reuters reporters' PDF submission for Pulitzer Prize. No credit given to Phuketwan reporters yet to a BKK reporter. Obviously Pulitzer is just a business as is Reuters.. all a bit phoney.....
BTW the "submission" article specifically mentioned a certain navy (s) AND immigration police! Strange that the submission article was just written to go for a prize...not (that I can find) published in full by Reuters in Intl Times or other worldwide distributed news media?

Posted by david on April 17, 2014 08:28


Editor your right and the focus should not be on (the appalling lack of conscience shown by) Reuters but on the injustice of the Thai Navy's action. There are many things wrong here and the way the Rohynga are being treated remains horrifying but for today the attention will and should be on the Thai Courts and an outdated, unjust law being mis-used to stifle a free and open press. I remain hopeful that cooler heads prevail for the good of Thailand, press freedom and for two people who have taken a courageous stand. Since I am unfortunately out of the country and can't be physically present I do hope you realize that many of us will be with you in spirit and support.

Posted by Martin on April 17, 2014 08:42

Editor Comment:

Thanks for that, Martin.


Also an "interesting" fact that the Pulitzer "judges" are ALL US media including one from Reuters..."prestigious award"..don't think so. Bit like politicians awarding themselves a pay rise or the "Peace prize" awards methinks? Dare you to print/post the award submission Pulitzer!!!

Posted by David on April 17, 2014 09:14


dunno but most international news media are more inclined to making a buck and covering their arse against litigation..with exception perhaps of Al Jazeera et al...sounds the death nel for independent, honest,open and transparent reporting.
Good luck a sad loss to Phuket and media freedom of speech if the Thai government allows this witch hunt to proceed to jail.Of course it is likely you will be able to pay/use a "get out of jail card" Thais do it why not farang?

Posted by david on April 17, 2014 09:50


People, don't take me wrong here, I am not trying to take anything away from PW, they've done a sterling job highlighting the terrible "slave" trade, but, with regards to Reuters and the Pulitzer prize, the prize was based on a report by Reuters reporters, of which PW published part of, also take note, the Reuters article was a worldwide publication not a small island website, it is also for media based in the United far as I know Phuket is not part of the United States.

Posted by Laurie Howells on April 17, 2014 10:47


Its not Phuketwan's right to report anything it wants - This is Thailand for Thais and foreigners must respect the country and its laws. If you want Western standards of journalism, perhaps a job in the West would be best

Posted by Damien on April 17, 2014 13:04

Editor Comment:

Our Thai reporters mostly report the news, Damien. Are they supposed to leave their country?


Reuters used to seek my cooperation by offering air tickets and good package .As I was very busy to meet my daily heavy schedule ,I advised them to contact Phuketwan . I am sure without Cutima of PW ,they could not win the prize . They must spoke out and stand nearby PW during this time. As a Rohingya activist ,I know who is whom. However I respect and thanks to all reporters who serve humanity and voice out for plights of Rohingya.

Posted by Maung Kyaw Nu,Burmese Rohingya Association in Thailand ,BRAT. on April 17, 2014 17:09

Wednesday July 17, 2024
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