Thai reporter acquitted of defamation charges in landmark case

Photo courtesy of Bangkok Post

In a landmark verdict, a reporter has been cleared of three counts of defamation, marking a victory against the backdrop of Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP) cases.

The Nakhon Ratchasima Provincial Court’s decision yesterday to clear Chutima Sidasathian serves as a beacon of hope for free speech advocates in the country, who have long battled against such oppressive legal tactics.

Chutima faced charges following her bold exposé of financial irregularities within the Village Fund programme, implicating local officials in misappropriation scandals. The court’s ruling recognised her right to speak out against maladministration in the public interest.

Expressing relief and gratitude to her supporters on social media, Chutima acknowledged the ongoing struggle for freedom of expression in Thailand. However, her fight is far from over as she gears up to confront six more defamation charges.

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This isn’t the first time Chutima has stared down legal intimidation. A decade ago, she triumphed alongside a colleague in a high-profile case initiated by the Royal Thai Navy over allegations of human trafficking, reported Bangkok Post.

Despite prevailing in court, the relentless pressure eventually forced their news outlet, Phuketwan, to shut its doors.

In related news, a tragic incident unfolded last Thursday, February 29 when a 44 year old journalist was found dead in his vehicle, which was parked in the middle of a road in Pathum Thani province. The cause of death remained undetermined, but no signs of violence were apparent on the body.

The journalist had been involved in a rescue operation, providing first aid at a motorcycle accident site just 1 kilometre from where his lifeless body was later discovered.

In other news, activist and lawyer Arnon Nampa was given a four-year prison sentence by the Criminal Court. Arnon was charged with violating the lèse-majesté law under Section 112 of the Criminal Code and the Computer Crime Act.

This decision comes after 39 year old Arnon was found guilty of defaming the monarchy, a crime carrying a maximum sentence of 15 years.

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Puntid Tantivangphaisal

Originally from Hong Kong, Puntid moved to Bangkok in 2020 to pursue further studies in translation. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Comparative Literature from the University of Hong Kong. Puntid spent 8 years living in Manchester, UK. Before joining The Thaiger, Puntid has been a freelance translator for 2 years. In her free time, she enjoys swimming and listening to music, as well as writing short fiction and poetry.

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