BBC journalist faces jail in Thailand over defamation case

Jonathan Head, the South East Asia correspondent from BBC. Credit: BBC

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins its affiliate, the National Union of Journalists, Thailand (NUJT) in expressing serious concern over criminal defamation charges brought against a BBC journalist in Thailand. The IFJ demands that the charges be dropped immediately.

BBC South East Asia correspondent, Jonathan Head, had criminal defamation charges brought against him by Phuket lawyer Pratuan Thanarak following two 2015 news reports filed by Head about how foreign retirees were allegedly scammed out of properties. Head was charged along with Ian Rance, a British businessman who was an interviewee in the reports. On February 23, Head appeared in court in Phuket and pleaded not guilty to the charges, which could see him face two years in jail. Head also faces further charges under Thailand’s Computer Crimes Act which carries a maximum penalty of five years in jail.

Jonathan Head had to surrender his passport and applications by BBC’s lawyers for him to be allowed to retain it due to the nature of his work were rejected.

The IFJ said: “This case is illustrative of the damage that criminal defamation cases cause to freedom of expression. The impact of such cases is felt across the media community and creates a sense of fear and intimidation. The use of criminal defamation to silence critics is fast becoming a tool of choice.”

The IFJ call for the charges to be dropped immediately and Mr Head’s passport returned.

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0946 

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries

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