Thai Phuketwan journalists released after trial

Court in Thailand says information published by journalists on Thai navy was not defamatory

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

Thai journalist Chutima Sidasathian and her Australian colleague Alan Morison arrive at the provincial court in Phuket island.

Two detained journalists were found not guilt and freed on Tuesday by a court in the southern Thai island of Phuket.

The two journalists Chutima Sidasathian and Australian Alan Morison, from news site Phuketwan, were accused of defaming the Thai navy and breaching the Computer Crimes Act.

Reuters and Phuketwan were the first to investigate reports of Thai connections with human trafficking of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar and Bangladesh.

A short clip from Reuters news agency shows an unnamed smuggler saying that Thai naval forces made money from allowing human trafficking.

Reuters has not faced any charges for its report.

Chutima said the verdict was "a big step for freedom of expression and freedom of the media in Thailand."

"I am happy that the court clearly said that the information we presented was useful to society and that they were not defamatory."

The trial ignited widespread of criticism from human rights organisations and the United Nations. Amnesty International said the verdict was "a welcome move for freedom of expression."   

Amnesty International's South East Asia campaigns director Josef Benedict said, "Vaguely worded provisions of the Computer Crime Act are being misused as a tool to silence and harass independent media."   

In May Thailand's prime minister warned journalists that he would "probably just execute" those who did "not report the truth."

According to a 2015 report by the Paris-based media watchdog Reporters Without Borders, Thailand ranks 134 out of 180 countries with respect to press freedom, with the country ranking 130th in 2014 and 135th in 2013. 

TRTWorld and agencies