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Australian journalist Alan Morison says he's prepared for prison over Thai navy row December 30, 2013 - Lindsay Murdoch - South-East Asia correspondent for Fairfax Media Australian journalist Alan Morison and his colleague Chutima Sidasathian both charged with defamation in Thailand. Bangkok: Australian journalist Alan Morison has declared he is prepared to go to jail to defend media freedom in Thailand where defamation laws are being increasingly used to silence criticism. â€˜â€˜This is a clear issue of freedom of media and the military exceeding its role in using an onerous law unjustly,â€™â€™ says Morison, 66, who edits and publishes Phuketwan, a small but popular news website on the resort island of Phuket. A defamation lawsuit launched by Thailandâ€™s navy against Mr Morison and his colleague Chutima Sidasathian on Christmas Eve is one of about 1600 defamation cases that were initiated in the south-east Asian country in 2013, many of them by powerful interests. Court records show that of the defamation cases that proceed to trial in Thailand an average of 96 per cent lead to convictions, one of the worldâ€™s highest rates for the crime. Advertisement Mr Morison and Ms Chutima could face a maximum five yearsâ€™ jail and fines if convicted under the Computer Crimes Act. If convicted on criminal defamation charges they could be jailed for up to two years. The navyâ€™s unprecedented action has prompted criticism from the United Nations, human rights groups, non-government organisations and media outlets and unions both in Thailand and other countries. The charges relate to a story published in Phuketwan in July 2013 that quoted a Reuters news agency investigation alleging that some members of the Thai military were involved in networks smuggling Muslim Rohingya boat people from Myanmar. No action has yet been filed against Reuters, a multinational company, although the navy has said charges against two of its reporters are expected to be laid shortly. Phuketwan has closely followed the plight of the Rohingya who have been described by the UN as among the worldâ€™s most persecuted people. Mr Morison says he and Ms Chutima have discussed the possibility of going to jail on the principle of media freedom in what would be a David-and-Goliath fight against the navy which has 70,000 active personnel. â€˜â€˜These are trumped up charges. There is an important principle at stake,â€™â€™ he says. â€˜â€˜The Rohingya have no spokesperson, no leader, but through Phuketwanâ€™s ongoing coverage the torment of these people continues to be revealed.â€™â€™ Mr Morison, a former senior Age editor, sold his apartment in Melbourne and set-up Phuketwan, which provides local and foreign news coverage for Phuket where an average 20,000 Australians holiday each month. If Mr Morison is jailed he would be one of the first editors to be incarcerated in the country since the Bangkok Postâ€™s Michael Gorman was jailed for three months over defamation proceedings in the early 1980s. â€˜â€˜The Thai navyâ€™s lawsuit is a reckless attempt to curtail journalistsâ€™ reporting on alleged human trafficking by its officers,â€™â€™ says Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. â€˜â€˜Unless the government withdraws the case, its impact will be felt far beyond those reporting on abuses against the Rohingya â€“ and could have a choking effect on all investigative reporting in Thailand,â€™â€™ Mr Adams says. David Streckfuss, an American academic who is an expert on Thai laws, told a recent forum at the Foreign Correspondentâ€™s Club of Thailand that use of defamation laws â€˜â€˜have become a kind of way of controlling political discourse in Thailandâ€™â€™. Andrew Drummond, a British investigative reporter in Thailand, said up to 30 foreigners have fled the country following threats of defamation that would involve years of litigation in the courts and thousands of dollars in bail payments. Many of them had been swindled by criminals making the threats, he said. Mr Morison and Ms Chutima, a respected Thai journalist, have formally denied the charges that could take years to be heard in Thai courts. http://www.smh.com.a...1230-hv75m.html (30/12/13)
Yingluck sues Thai Rath cartoonist for defamation May 3, 2013 5:26 pm Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra's lawyers on Friday seek legal action against Thai Rath cartoonist Chai Rachawat for comparing the premier to a prostitute. The lawyers filed the complaint against the cartoonist at Dusit police station on Friday afternoon. Chai, whose real name is Somchai Katanyutanan, posted photos of Yingluck in Mongolia and at a Thai parliamentary meeting and posted the message: "Please understand that prostitutes are not bad women. Prostitutes only sell their bodies, but a bad woman has been wandering around trying to sell the country." During her speech at the 7th Ministerial Conference on the International Democracies, Yingluck denounced the 2006 coup and attacked Thailand's independent organisations. She also talked about the suffering her family, the government of her brother, former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, as well as slain red shirts had to endure following the coup and political violence in the country. PM's Secretary General Suranan Vejjajiva said that while Yingluck was ready to listen to criticism, critics should be careful not to use inappropriate wording. Suranan said the cartoonist not only insulted the prime minister but through his action was also looking down on women. Pheu Thai Party female MPs led by Sunee Luangwichit and Yaowanit Piengket held a press conference condemning his action as professionally unscrupulous and unethical. They called Chai's comment irresponsible and they called for an apology. They would also petition the Thai Journalists Association as well as related agencies to take action. "Pheu Thai Party Women MPs regard Chai's message as a violation of womenâ€™s rights and a insult to women. On one hand, it accuses women of being whores who sell their bodies. Although the message does not refer to a specific person, it reflects the opinion of the author and this is insulting to the female gender. As women and men have equal rights, this kind of comment is very inappropriate and is a serious violation of his professional ethics," they said in the statement. http://www.nationmultimedia.com/national/Yingluck-sues-Thai-Rath-cartoonist-for-defamation-30205360.html