The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins the South East Asian Journalist Unions (SEAJU) in calling for all charges against Thai journalist Chutima Sidasathian and Australian journalist Alan Morison to be dropped immediately. The IFJ and SEAJU said all the prosecution of the journalists from online news website phuketwan.com for criminal libel and violation the Computer Crime Act (CCA) is a gross violation on freedom of expression and the rights of all media in Thailand.
Chutima Sidasathian and Alan Morison will face a three-day trial commencing tomorrow, July 14. Criminal defamation charges were laid against the two journalists on April 17, 2014, under articles 326 and 328 of the Thai Criminal Code for alleged defamation of the Thai navy and under article 14(1) for violation of the Computer Crimes Act. The charges were the result of the website’s reprinting of a single paragraph from a Reuters special report on the Rohingya boat-people published in July 2013. Reuters subsequently won a Pulitzer for its 2014 investigation.
Following this week’s trial, the judge is expected to consider a verdict for 30 days. If found guilty the pair could face up to seven years in jail and a maximum fine of 300,000 Baht (USD 7,000).
SEAJU said: “Freedom of expression in Thailand is the cornerstone of democracy. It is deeply concerning that we are seeing a government that espouses democratic principles using criminal defamation laws to curb freedom of expression on matters of significant public interest. We strongly urge the government to review its position on this case before the trial and seek a resolution for the sake of democracy and freedom of expression in Thailand.”
The IFJ and SEAJU have called for a repeal of criminal defamation laws in Thailand.
In an earlier statement, the IFJ said: “The charges against Alan Morison and Chutiam Sidasathian are a blatant attack intended to intimidate and silence Thailand’s media – over the reprinting of an item of news. This case must be condemned in the strongest possible terms and we strongly call for common sense to prevail and for all charges to be dropped.”
SEAJU said: “We demand that these charges be dropped immediately and the government in Thailand ends its continued assault on press freedom which continues to put the country in a poor light both regionally and internationally.”
SEAJU has documented the threats and attacks on press freedom over the past 12 months and called for immediate action to ensure the Thai media is supported. SEAJU has stood in solidarity to support media colleagues in Thailand impacted by the challenges.
For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0946
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