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FCCT Statement with Clarification: The Pulitzer Prize and Media Freedom


 
The professional membership of the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand (FCCT) congratulates Thomson Reuters journalists Jason Szep and Andrew R. C. Marshall on a Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting on the plight of Rohingya people. The award recognizes a series of articles that are in the best tradition of journalism, and which expose the systematic abuse of Rohingyas in Myanmar and in Thailand.

At the same time, the professional membership of the FCCT notes that while a large media organization is being feted for its reporting, two poorly-funded local journalists are facing prosecution for their reporting of the same issue -- and indeed for publishing material from a Thomson Reuters report.

The Royal Thai Navy is proceeding with criminal prosecution of two Phuket-based journalists, Alan Morison and Chutima Sidasathien, who run Phuketwan, a newsletter.

These two journalists have done more than most to report accurately from Thailand the plight of Rohingyas. They have also rendered invaluable assistance to journalists at Thomson Reuters and other local and foreign media organizations attempting to report this humanitarian crisis.

Alan Morison from Australia and Chutima Sidasathien from Thailand are facing charges for criminal defamation and violating the Computer Crimes Act after republishing parts* of the Thomson Reuters reports on trafficking of Rohingyas in Thailand. Under existing Thai law, these are criminal charges that could result in prison terms.

The professional membership of the FCCT shares the view of the UN Human Rights Commissioner and human rights groups that such a prosecution serves only to stifle media freedom on an issue of profound importance to the rights of a persecuted people. The legal action also seriously damages the image of Thailand and claims it may make to supporting freedom of speech and fair comment.

[*Clarification: Phuketwan quoted from Thomson Reuters reports but did not reproduce any in full and is not a subscriber to the wire service.]
 

 
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