UN urges Thailand to drop charges against news website
BANGKOK (AFP) - The United Nations has urged Thailand to drop defamation charges against two Australian and Thai journalists for a report alleging military involvement in people smuggling, warning of a "chilling effect" on press freedom.
The case relates to an article published by the independent news website Phuketwan in July, quoting an investigation by the Reuters news agency, which said some members of the military were involved in trafficking Muslim Rohingya asylum seekers from Myanmar.
If convicted of the charges, which were filed by the Royal Thai Navy, Australian editor Alan Morison and his Thai colleague Chutima Sidasathian could face up to two years' imprisonment for defamation and five years for breaching the Computer Crimes Act, the UN said.
"Criminal prosecution for defamation has a chilling effect on freedom of the press, and international standards are clear that imprisonment is never an appropriate penalty for defamation," the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said in a statement released in Geneva on Thursday.