Thailand: The ‘Not Guilty’ Verdict in Phuketwan Journalists’ Case Sets a Precedent for Online Freedom of Expression
3 September 2015 6:27 pm
(Bangkok, 3 September 2015) – The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) welcomes the verdict of Phuket Provincial Court on Tuesday, clearing Phuketwan journalists, Alan Morison and Chutima Sidasathian, of defamation charges under articles 326 (defamation) and 328 (libel) of the Thai Criminal Code in conjunction with article 14(1) of the 2007 Computer Crime Act. The two journalists were prosecuted for republishing Reuters’ article in 2013 on the involvement of Thai Navy Force in the trafficking of Rohingya migrants.
On the criminal defamation charges, Phuket Provincial Court found that the information republished by the two journalists were not defamatory or libellous as it was taken from a reliable news source, the international news provider Reuters. The Court dismissed charges under article 14(1) of the 2007 Computer Crime Act, since the information is proved not to constitute false computer data which may cause harm or damage to national security and public.
“The acquittal of the two journalists sets a good precedent for online expression as it lays down the standard for similar cases in the future, including lèse majesté. Court’s view that the spirit of the Computer Crime Act is not to construe defamation is the key to the whole verdict,” says Evelyn Balais-Serrano, the Executive Director of FORUM-ASIA.
While FORUM-ASIA is welcoming the latest verdict on Phuketwan journalists’ case, the regional group notes that judicial harassment against human rights defenders and media under the Computer Crime Act is flagrant in Thailand, as highlighted by the ongoing criminal prosecution against Andy Hall. Mr. Hall has been charged under Article 14(1) of the Computer Crime Act for publishing a report on migrant workers’ rights violation on plantations owned by Natural Fruit Co., LTD. The Thai government should therefore consider abolishing or amending the provisions of the Criminal Code and Computer Crime Act which are not in compliance with international human rights standards.
FORUM-ASIA is a Bangkok-based regional human rights group with 47 member organisations in 16 countries across Asia. FORUM-ASIA has offices in Bangkok, Jakarta and Geneva. FORUM-ASIA addresses key areas of human rights violations in the region, including freedoms of expressions, assembly and association, human rights defenders, and democratisation.
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