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Journalists facing jail for defamation in Thailand launch press freedom campaign

Alan Morison and Chutima SidasathianTwo journalists in Thailand facing prison sentences for defamation have launched a 30-day campaign for press freedom in the run-up to World Media Freedom Day on 3 May.

Alan Morison and Chutima Sidasathian, both journalists for Thai news website Phuketwan, have been taken to court by the Thai navy over a paragraph about Rohingya immigrants taken from Reuters the site republished in July last year.

If convicted, the two journalists face a fine and potentially a jail term.

The case marks the first time Thailand’s military forces have used a law known as the Computer Crimes Act to file a defamation suit against a media entity.

The campaign, which being run with support from the Australian journalists’ union and the International Federation of Journalists, is intended to “explain to Thai citizens and the world how wrong it is for the military to sue the media in a democracy,” Morison said in a story on Phuketwan.

The website plans to publish news of abuses of media freedom in Thailand and elsewhere for the duration of the campaign, as well as cover stories about the treatment of the Rohingya people.

The pair are also planning speaking tours in Thailand and Australia, and will go to Europe and Japan, if jail is avoided.

”These laws are not made for the military to intimidate the media,” Morison said. ‘The Computer Crimes Act in particular is being abused to make unfair attacks against investigative journalists and activists, including Britons Andrew Drummond and Andy Hall.”

”We hope our campaign will not only make the Navy realise its mistake but also lead to these bad laws being killed,” Morison, who is Phuketwan’s editor, said.

A verdict on whether the case will proceed is to be announced on 17 April.

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