IFJ, ARTICLE 19 and SEAPA Disappointed at Defence Witnesses' Inability to Testify in Thailand Criminal Defamation Case

The International Federation of Journalists, ARTICLE 19, and the South East Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA) today expressed their deep disappointment that lawyers from Shin Corp today successfully blocked international experts from testifying in the criminal defamation case against media reform activist Supinya Klangnarong.

On August 19 Shin Corp's lawyers objected to the hearing of the experts' testimonies, claiming that they were unable to locate a suitable interpreter, despite the fact that Supinya's legal team made available two court registered interpreters.

The experts had flown in from Canada, the Philippines and Hong Kong to testify on international law, standards and practices on freedom of expression issues.

"The delay is disappointing as this was an opportunity to broaden the case and the public's discussions of it beyond Supinya and Shin Corp.," IFJ, SEAPA, and ARTICLE 19 said in a joint statement. The witness testimony would have provided insight into international and regional standards and practices relevant to the facts of the case.

"The experts, Supinya and her defence will still have their day in court, so we're not worried about that," said Roby Alampay, SEAPA Executive Director. "We are more disappointed for the Thai public who were looking forward to the views of the witnesses on free expression and why criminal defamation lawsuits have no place in a democratic society."

Supinya Klangnarong, secretary general of Campaign for Popular Media Reform (CPMR) faces a two-year prison sentence, as well as a ten million US dollar civil lawsuit, if Shin Corp is successful in this criminal defamation lawsuit against her and the Thai Post. The charges based on a 16 July 2003 article in which Supinya suggested that Shin Corp financially benefited from Thaksin Shinawatra's election as prime minister.

Toby Mendel, Law Program Director, ARTICLE 19, Nick Cheesman from the Asian Legal Resource Centre and Sheila Coronel, Executive Director of the Philippines Centre for Investigative Journalism, were scheduled to testify on August 18 and 19. The trial will resume on August 30.

For more information contact Roby Alampay on 015501120 or Lara Hook +66 (0) 67360969

The IFJ, SEAPA and ARTICLE 19 are involved in a global campaign to decriminalise defamation