At one point, the relationship between Reuters and the English-language Thai news site Phuketwan was pretty good, Phuketwan Editor Alan Morison said in a phone call with Poynter. Reuters had hired Phuketwan reporter Chutima Sidasathian twice to help with what became a series of reports on the Rohingya, a Muslim minority group from Myanmar. The reports showed, among other things, that Thai authorities delivered Rohingya refugees to human traffickers; the series eventually won a Pulitzer.
Phuketwan, which averages about 9,000 readers a day, has reported on the Rohingya for seven years, Morison said, so “it was natural for Reuters to call me and get a briefing from me” when Stuart Grudgings and Jason Szep began reporting the series. Phuketwan even quoted a 41-word paragraph from a Reuters special report on the Rohingya (it’s not a Reuters client but wanted to point readers to Reuters’ reporting, Morison said). And not long after that, things went south.
In December Phuket police summoned Morison and Chutima in response to a claim by the Royal Thai Navy that the Reuters material violated the country’s Computer Crimes Act and defamed the Navy. They were later charged. (While one of Reuters’ reports said Thai naval forces can earn money for handing Rohingya over to human traffickers, the material Phuketwan quoted did not mention the navy. The Thai translation the navy provided to the court, however, mentioned the navy three times, Morison said.)
Morison and Chutima “spent time in the cells beneath the Phuket provincial court as part of our bail application,” Morison said; they each face up to seven years in prison and a fine. As a director of Phuketwan as well as a coauthor on the story, Morison faces up to 14 years. Read more