Phuket authorities recently acquitted Australian journalist Alan Morison, and his Thai colleague Chutima Sidasathian, of defamation charges brought against them by the Thai Navy.
They faced up to seven years in prison on charges relating to republishing, online, a paragraph from a Reuter’s news report. The Reuter’s article outlined reports that Thai naval forces were complicit in human trafficking of Rohingya asylum seekers.
Uniting Church members wrote letters to the Thai Government asking that the charges be dropped, and to the Australian Government urging intervention in the case.
The court found the report was not defamatory, was in the public interest and that the most serious criminal charges, under Thailand’s Computer Crime Act, should never have been laid.
Mr Morison and Ms Sidasathian have steadfastly refused to apologise for republishing the Reuters paragraph.
“We had no intention of apologising for something that we haven’t done,” Mr Morison told The Age newspaper.
“This was a matter of important principle. This case was wrong from the beginning, with one or two officers acting on bad advice.”
In late August, anti-human-trafficking researcher, Andy Hall was indicted to stand trial for another troubling Thai defamation case.
The case has been brought by a pineapple processing factory, Natural Fruit, after Mr Hall contributed research for non-government organisation Finnwatch.
The research exposed violations of Thai labour law at the Natural Fruit factory at the start of 2013. Mr Hall now faces up to seven years in prison if found guilty.
Mr Hall has previously conducted research, on behalf of the Commission for Mission, into food processing factories in Thailand that supply the Australian market.
In some cases human trafficking and forced labour were discovered.
Justice and International Mission unit director Dr Mark Zirnsak stressed the importance of supporting individuals undertaking advocacy work.
“If Andy is sent to prison for investigating human trafficking, it will deter other researchers and anti-slavery organisations from undertaking similar research,” he said.
“This case needs to be dismissed if the Thai Government wishes to persuade the world it is serious about eliminating human trafficking.”