Journalists defend themselves in Rohingya story

Journalists defend themselves in Rohingya story
PHOTO: Reuters

Two journalists of the English-language website Phuketwan took to the stand at the Phuket Provincial Court yesterday to defend their right to exercise their freedom of expression by reporting on the Navy's role in the trafficking of Rohingya migrants.

Alan Morison and Chutima Sidasathian were given a chance to speak up for themselves, as their trial entered the second day yesterday. They face charges of defamation and computer crime for quoting an investigative report by Reuters, saying some Navy officials were involved in the trafficking of Rohingya migrants.

Their lawyer Siriwan Wongkiartpaisan said the journalists defended their case on grounds of media freedom, insisting that there intention was not to insult the Royal Thai Navy, but to just shed light on the role of some officials.

The lawyer said that if anybody's reputation was damaged, it was that of the officials rather than the Royal Thai Navy itself, hence there was no point in the Navy suing them for defamation.

Meanwhile, the United Nations human rights agency and other international human rights groups have expressed their concerns over the trial and are calling on the authorities to drop the charges.

Human trafficking, notably that of the Rohingya, who escape on boats to seek better lives in Southeast Asia, has been under the spotlight recently.

The United States downgraded Thailand to the lowest tier in its Trafficking in Persons report last year for taking little or no action to combat this issue.

Reuters, meanwhile, won the Pulitzer Prize for breaking the news of human trafficking and pinpointing Thai officials involved, while Phuketwan is facing legal troubles for merely quoting this report.

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