Reuters journalists “will be summoned in the next few days to acknowledge defamation charges” in Thailand, Agence France-Presse reports. “If they do not come, arrest warrants will be issued,” Lt. Somkid On-Jan of Phuket’s Vichit Police Station told AFP. Somkid didn’t name the journalists, but Reuters’ Stuart Grudgings and Jason Szep wrote an article about Thai authorities selling members of a Muslim minority group in Myanmar to human traffickers. It was part of a series that won a Pulitzer Prize.
“We’re aware that a captain in the Royal Thai Navy filed a criminal complaint against Reuters and two Reuters journalists, Stuart Grudgings and Jason Szep, arising out of the Rohingya coverage, and that the complaint alleges violations of the Computer Crimes Act,” David Crundwell, Thomson Reuters’ head of corporate affairs, told Poynter in an email. “If necessary we will defend our story, along with our right to publish, vigorously.”
Chutima Sidasathian and Alan Morison, two reporters from the English language website Phuketwan who excerpted 41 words of the Reuters report, have already been charged, Phuketwan reports. They’re due in court May 26. Morison, as a director of Phuketwan’s parent company, “faces twice the penalty” under Thailand’s Computer Crimes Act. The 2007 law “bans any online criticism of the Thai royal family and, more broadly, any materials considered a threat to national security,” CPJ wrote late last year.
Reuters hopes “the Captain and the Navy will reconsider the lawsuit against Reuters in light of the Thai officials’ subsequent acknowledgement of the seriousness of the problem, their efforts to combat trafficking, and Reuters’ contribution to the authorities having released 900 trafficking refugees from trafficking camps in Thailand,” Crundwell wrote. He continues:
Thomson Reuters, and Reuters News, are governed by our own Trust Principles, dedicated to preserving Reuters’ independence, integrity and freedom from bias in the gathering and dissemination of information and news. We stand by the fairness and accuracy of our Rohingya coverage, and we support the principles of a free press everywhere in the world – and the rights of journalists to go about their jobs without fear or hindrance in reporting the truth.”