News / Asia

Two Journalists in Thailand Face Charges Due to Pulitzer Prize Report

Alan Morison (R), an Australian, and Thai national Chutima Sidasathian, reporters for the Phuketwan news website, speak to media as they arrive to a criminal court in Phuket, April 17, 2014.
Alan Morison (R), an Australian, and Thai national Chutima Sidasathian, reporters for the Phuketwan news website, speak to media as they arrive to a criminal court in Phuket, April 17, 2014.
An excerpt from a Pulitzer Prize report posted online by a website in Thailand has led to a criminal court case against two journalists in the country. They are accused of defaming the Thai navy for its alleged involvement in trafficking of some refugees from Burma.

An Australian editor based in Thailand and one of his local reporters appeared in a provincial court Thursday and were released on bail.

The navy filed charges against them five months ago after they posted a paragraph from a Reuters news story which alleged that members of the Thai military profited from trafficking of Muslim Rohingya asylum seekers from Burma, also known as Myanmar.

The two journalists who were charged work for an online English-language news site on the Thai southern resort island of Phuket.

Alan Morison is the editor of the Phuketwan web site. He said his independent website likely was targeted because it repeatedly has reported about how the Rohingya refugees have been treated by Thai authorities. He said it is not unique for officials here, however, to try to intimidate journalists and others in this way.

"The law is used in all kinds of bad ways against investigative journalists and academics and even migrant activists in Thailand already. And we're just the most noticeable case, I guess, because it's the military," said Morison.

After being granted bail, Morison was ordered by the court not to leave Thailand.

The other journalist charged in the case is Chutima Sidasathian. She expressed relief about being granted bail after being held in the court's detention cell for five hours. Chutima said she and her editor will fight the case.

Chutima also helped Reuters with its series on the plight of the refugees. The Reuters' articles were this week awarded a Pulitzer Prize for international reporting.  

Reuters says the same Thai navy officer who brought the case against the two journalists has also filed a criminal complaint against the news agency, which is believed to be under review by Thai authorities.

Morison and Chutima face up to seven years in prison and a fine of about $3,000 if convicted of both defamation and offenses under the Computer Crimes Act.

Human Rights Watch, an international non-governmental organization, is calling on Thailand's leaders to intervene and stop the case. It terms the prosecution an application of draconian laws and a "blatant violation of media freedoms."

The Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand issued a statement Thursday saying it shares the view of the U.N. Human Rights Commissioner that such a prosecution "serves only to stifle media freedom on an issue of profound importance to the rights of persecuted people." The journalists' organization added that the legal action also damages Thailand's image and claims the country may make in support of freedom of speech and fair comment.

The provincial court has set a May 26 date for the first hearing in the case.

Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

You May Like

Multimedia Brussels Schools, Metro Reopen Under Heavy Guard

City remains under the highest threat alert level due to what authorities have described as a 'serious and imminent' threat of attack

Video Debt-ridden Refugees Await Onslaught of Lebanese Winter

Aid agencies are attempting to reduce potentially devastating consequences of freezing conditions and snowstorms that killed eight last year, including three Syrian refugees

Americans Think About Strange Stuff at Thanksgiving

Millions of Americans are celebrating Thanksgiving, but they’re not necessarily thinking about turkey and stuffing

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against ISi
November 24, 2015 3:04 AM
The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs