Press Release: Acquittal of two reporters a positive step for media freedom


Paris-Geneva-Bangkok, September 1, 2015 - TheObservatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders urges Thailand torepeal its criminal defamation laws following the acquittal of two reporters.

Today, the PhuketProvincial Court acquitted Ms. Chutima “Oi” Sidasathian and Mr. AlanMorison, two journalists with the Phuket Wan news website, oncomputer crimes under Article 14(1) of the 2007 Computer Crimes Act and libelunder Articles 326 and 328 of the Thai Criminal Code.

The acquittal of Chutima and Alanis a positive step for media freedom and freedom of speech in Thailand.Thailand must now abolish criminal defamation and make the Computer Crimes Actcompliant with the country’s international law obligations,” said FIDH President Karim Lahidji.

The criminalproceedings against the Thai journalist and her Australian colleague stemmedfrom a post on the Phuket Wan website on July 17, 2013, that quotedparts of a special report published by the international news agency Reuterson the same day. In its report, Reuters alleged that Thai naval forceswere involved in the trafficking of Rohingya boat people in Southern Thailand.

“We welcome the acquittal of Chutima and Alan. Nonetheless, their judicial harassment is a reminder of the ongoingmedia repression in a country that not too long ago was considered a beacon ofmedia freedom in Southeast Asia. Thai authorities must immediately end allforms of harassment of media workers and human rights defenders and guaranteetheir right to freedom of expression,” said OMCTSecretary General Gerald Staberock.

In recent years,Thailand has witnessed several high-profile cases involving charges under itscriminal defamation laws and the Computer Crimes Act to silence media workersand human rights defenders.

On 24 August 2015,the Bangkok South Criminal Court indicted migrant and worker rights defenderMr. Andy Hall under Article 14(1) of the Computer Crimes Act and Article328 of the Thai Criminal Code (libel). Natural Fruit, a Thai pineappleprocessing company, filed the case as a result of Hall’s research for a 2013report published by the Finnish NGO Finnwatch. The report documented labourrights abuses of migrant workers from Burma at the company’s factory inPrachuap Khiri Khan Province. Hall faces a maximum penalty of seven years inprison if convicted.

On 30 May 2012, theBangkok Criminal Court sentenced Ms. Chiranuch “Jiew” Premchaiporn, ExecutiveDirector of the online news website Prachatai, to one year in prison anda 30,000 baht (750 Euros) fine under Article 15 of the Computer Crimes Act. Thecourt reduced the sentence to an eight-month suspended jail term and a 20,000baht fine. The charges were the result of Chiranuch’s failure to promptlyremove comments that had been posted on the Prachataiweb board between April and November 2008, which the court considered to haveoffended the monarchy.

The Observatory forthe Protection of Human Rights Defenders (OBS) was created in 1997 by FIDH andthe World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programmeis to intervene to prevent or remedy situations of repression against humanrights defenders.

For more information,please contact:

• FIDH: Arthur Manet/Lucie Kroening: + 33143552518

• OMCT: Miguel Martín Zumalacárregui: +41228094924

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