- Posted April 17, 2014 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Impact Your World
Australian faces jail for coverage of same story that won Reuters a Pulitzer prize
Alan Morison and Chutima Sidasathian will face criminal defamation charges in a Thai court on Thursdayfor repeating information in a Reuters report on Phuketwan, their small Phuket-based news website.
Thailand’s navy last year launched an unprecedented defamation case against Mr Morison, a former senior editor at The Age, and Ms Chutima for republishing one paragraph word-for-word from a Reuters story that alleged some members of the Thai military were involved in networks smuggling Rohingya boat people from Mynamar.
No action has been taken against Reuters, one of the world’s largest news agencies, over the story that was published in July last year. The London-based company has declined to comment on the case against Mr Morison and Ms Chutima, who say they are prepared to go to jail to defend media freedom in Thailand, where defamation laws are being increasingly used to silence criticism.
The Pulitzer board commended Reuters journalists Jason Szep and Andrew Marshall for their ''courageous reports'' on the Rohingya, who in their efforts to flee Myanmar ''often fall victim to predatory human trafficking networks''.
Mr Morison, 66, congratulated Reuters for the Pulitzer, the world’s top award for journalism excellence, awarded each year by Columbia University. ''Jason Szep and Andrew Marshall have worked very hard recently to bring to the wider world the tragedy of the Rohingya that Phuketwan has been consistently reporting since 2008,'' Mr Morison said. Ms Chutima was hired by Reuters to help prepare some of the company’s Rohingya coverage.
Stephen Adler, Reuters' editor-in-chief, said in a statement he was ''immensely proud'' of Reuters’ ''high impact series'' on the Rohingya. ''For two years, Reuters reporters have tirelessly investigated terrible human-rights abuses in a forgotten corner of the Muslim world, bringing the international dimensions of the oppressed Rohingya of Mynamar to the global attention,'' he said.
Mr Szep, one of the authors of the report quoted by Phuketwan, said from Washington he hopes the prize will focus ''greater international attention of the risks and presence of religious violence in Myanmar''.
The prosecution of Mr Morison and Ms Chutima is due to go ahead despite calls by the United Nations and rights groups for the charges to be dropped. Phuket public prosecutor Wiwat Kijjaruk told reporters last week there was enough evidence to proceed ''even though the two said they just republished an article from Reuters ... they should have checked the facts before doing so''.
If convicted, Mr Morison and Ms Chutima could face up to seven years in jail.
Source: Award-winning coverage: Akram, an 18-year-old Rohingya, who cannot walk, rests on a makeshift bed at a mosque near Songkhla, close to Thailand's border with Malaysia.