On Tuesday 1 September, the Phuket Provincial Court dismissed all charges against the editor and a journalist for Thai news website, PhuketWan.
PhuketWan had been sued by the Thai navy for a story on the smuggling of Rohingya refugees from Myanmar, in which they quoted from a Reuters report which had discussed alleged involvement in the smuggling by the Thai military.
The Reuters journalists won a Pulitzer Prize for their reporting, but the two journalists for PhuketWan – editor, Alan Morison and Chutima Sidasathian, were charged with criminal libel following a complaint by the Thai navy. If found guilty, they could have spent up to seven years in jail and pay thousands of US dollars in fine.
Dismissing the charges against the two, the Phuket Provincial Court also commented that the Cyber Crime legislation under which the case had been brought should not be used to pursue libel cases against journalists.
Alan Morison and Chutima Sidasathian commented:
“We were elated with the result and pleased to have a courtroom full of supporters and observers to hear what amounts to a victory for media freedom, for Thai justice and for Thailand. Our legal team, led by SR Law, performed magnificently and called up a team of expert defence witnesses who made the allegations look what they truly were – a feeble misuse of laws designed to catch computer hackers and data base thieves, not to unfairly pursue journalists.”
MLDI had provided financial support for the defence, and Morison added that ‘the lawyers could not have performed as they did without the support of the Media Legal Defence Initiative, for which we are extremely grateful.
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