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PEN Melbourne welcomes the acquittal of Phuketwan journalists

September 06, 2015 IN WIP
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PEN Melbourne welcomes the acquittal of Australian journalist Alan Morison and his Thai colleague Chutima Sidasathian on charges of criminal defamation after publishing a story on linking the Thai Navy to the trafficking of the  Rohingya boat people. Morison and Chutima Sidasathian faced jail sentences of up to seven years’ jail.

The judges’ ruling declared that Morison and Chutima did not intend to damage Thailand’s reputation when they published the story on their online news site in 2013.  Phuketwan republished a single paragraph from an article originally published by Reuters and this led to the charges being laid. Morison’s news website Phuketwan is known for its reportage on the shocking plight of the Rohingyas from Myanmar.

Morison has described the Navy’s tactics in bringing the charges against himself and Chutima Sidasathian as “A battle fought in court to silence the voices of democracy.”

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People say that (writers) are pretty powerless: we don’t have an army, we don’t have a bureaucracy. But if that were true, then why would writers be arrested?... Because the spoken word is powerful.

— John Ralston Saul on the work of PEN International