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Back in Bangkok after Phuket court case dropped

Tim Newton

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Jonathan Head is back in Bangkok following his two day visit to Phuket. His case came to an abrupt conclusion when the man suing him, Phuket lawyer Pratuan Thanarak withdrew the charges. He was suing Mr Head over a story that appeared on the BBC in 2015 where the lawyer claimed he was defamed.

Jonathan Head investigated foreigners being scammed of their retirement homes in Phuket in a 2015 BBC report. The BBC says “the plaintiff has withdrawn his case against BBC journalist Jonathan Head, but as the trial of his co-defendant is continuing we cannot comment further at present.”

Leaving Phuket Provincial Court, Jonathan told Phuket Gazette, “I was confident we would win. We felt the case against us was not strong. I had faith in the Thai justice system not to put us in jail.

“But the case does illustrate how easy it is for people in Thailand to launch defamation cases and bring them to trial. The costs of doing so are low, given that trials are usually held in the place where the complaint is filed. But they are really expensive, stressful and inconvenient for defendants to contest. It is a known and often raised issue here for journalists,” said Jonathan.

There have been several high-profile cases of individuals and organisations taking foreign journalists to court in recent years.

In 2015 Phuket’s popular news website, Phuketwan, was put in a difficult financial position being forced to defend a defamation case brought by the Royal Thai Navy over a Reuters news story Phuketwan re-printed about the Rohingyas. They were successful in defending the case but it took its toll on the website’s resources and it closed down. The Pattaya-based British crime reporter, Andrew Drummond, left Thailand over multiple cases brought against him and British labour rights activist Andy Hall left Thailand late last year after a libel case against him was dismissed.

Jonathan Head has returned to Bangkok to continue his work as South East correspondent for the BBC.

“We are very glad to have the charges withdrawn. But it has taken 18 months”.

PHOTO: AFP

 

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Tim Newton has lived in Thailand since 2012. An Australian, he has worked in the media, principally radio and TV, for 41 years. He has won the Deutsche Welle Award for best radio talk program, presented over 10,000 radio news bulletins, 3,900 in Thailand alone, hosted 650 daily TV news programs and produced 2,100 videos, TV commercials and documentaries. As founder of The Thaiger, Tim now acts as the Content Manager and head-writer, whilst supervising the growth of the YouTube channel. He's reported for CNN, Deutsche Welle TV, CBC, Australia's ABC TV and Australian radio during the 2018 Cave Rescue and other major stories in Thailand.

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