Thai police are seeking to prosecute the Reuters news agency for defaming the Thai navy in a story published by an Australian journalist in Phuket.
Police were asked to prosecute Australian journalist Alan Morison and one of his colleagues last month over a piece on the navy’s treatment of the stateless Rohingya people.
The story, which was published in the online newspaper Phuketwan last July, contained excerpts from a Reuters report.
Morison, who edits Phuketwan, was told in December Thai police were preparing a defamation case against him.
At the time, there was no clear indication that Reuters was also being targeted.
Morison says he is not sure why the article was so contentious.
“It may be because Phuketwan lives and works on Phuket, almost alongside the Royal Thai Navy, and it’s possibly the first place the Royal Thai Navy goes to read about Rohingya,” he told PM.
He received a police number for the Reuters case on Monday, making it clear the Thai police were pursing the news agency.
“For the military to tackle the media anywhere in a democracy is pretty awesome,” Morison told PM.
“But in a democracy like Thailand, where democracy is the subject of protests in the street at present, it’s really out of kilter with what’s happening elsewhere.”
Human rights activists hit out at press ‘intimidation’
Bangkok-based human rights activist Chris Lewa says Thai authorities are clamping down on the media.
“I believe the impact is far larger than this particular issue,” he said.
“It’s an attempt at silencing media and intimidating people in general and the whole issue of freedom of media, of expression for media, is at stake in Thailand.”
But Morrison says the crackdown is not working.
“The Royal Thai Navy, by using these onerous laws, have actually activated greater interest among the Thai media than ever in the Rohingya issue,” he said.
Reuters reporter Jason Szep, who wrote the article now being looked into by Thai police, would not comment on the matter.