UN urges Thailand to drop charges against journalists
United Nations: The United Nations has urged Thailand to drop defamation charges against two Australian and Thai journalists.
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.
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 has warned the case would have a "chilling effect" on press freedom in the kingdom.
"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.
"We urge the government of Thailand to drop the charges against Mr. Morison and Ms Sidasathian and to ensure the freedom of the press in the country."
The Rohingya are considered by the United Nations to be one of the most persecuted minorities in the world.
Many have long made the perilous journey from Myanmar by boat.
But their exodus accelerated after Buddhist-Muslim clashes in western Rakhine State in 2012.
Thousands of Rohingya have since fled the former junta-ruled country.
Rights groups have raised concerns about alleged cases of boats being pushed back out to sea after entering Thai waters.
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