Hot! Australian Journalist “Hopeful” Ahead of Defamation Verdict Tomorrow

Australian journalist Alan Morison says he is “hopeful” for tomorrow’s verdict at Phuket Criminal Court, where he is being tried for allegedly defaming the Royal Thai Navy.

As the Sydney Morning Herald reports, Morison, 67, from Melbourne, and his Thai colleague Chutima Sidasathian, face up to seven years behind bars for defamation charges and breaches of Thailands Computer Crimes Act.

“We remain extremely concerned about the outcome, but hopeful that we’ll be found not guilty,” said Morison.

He continues:

“Anything less than a no guilty verdict would be bad for freedom of the media really, internationally.”

Image Credit: robertsharp (Flickr)

Image Credit: robertsharp (Flickr)

The charges were brought against the couple in June 2013 where Phuketwan republished extracts from a Reuters report that alleged the Royal Thai Navy were involved in smuggling Rohingya refugees from Myanmar.

In an article this weekend for Phuketwan, Morison and Sidasathian write:

“If the Royal Thai Navy succeeds in using criminal defamation and Thailand’s draconian Computer Crimes Act to imprison or fine the journalists, governments everywhere aiming at repressing media will not be slow to assess how they too can misuse these kinds of laws.

“If Phuketwan loses this case, everyone who retweets any piece of contentious information also becomes more likely to be sued.”

The article also points out the Reuters journalists who initiated the allegations, as well as other reporters, have not been charged, and that the journalists feel “singled out for persecution.”

The journalists behind the Reuters report were awarded the Pulitzer Prize for international media reporting.

Morison and Chutima have garnered support worldwide from human rights and media groups, including the New York based Human Rights Watch and Paris-based Reporters’ Without Borders.

Legal sources have suggested that The Thai military-backed government may wish to make an example of the journalists.

Under Thai Law, defamation can be both a civil and a criminal matter. If convicted, the pair could face up to two years’ imprisonment for defamation and five years for breaching the Computer Crimes Act, as well as a fine of up to 10,000 baht.

To read more on this story, go here.

For information about Thailand Computer Crime law, see here and here.

Just last week, another defamation case in Thailand made headlines, with British human rights worker Andy Hall being indicted of defamation at Bangkok South Criminal Court.

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