Reuters has vowed to stand by their Rohingya story which alleges that Thai naval officers were involved in the trafficking of Rohingya boatpeople.
The global news organisation yesterday acknowledged a police complaint was filed by the Royal Thai Navy against the company and two of its journalists.
“We’re aware that a captain in the navy has filed a criminal complaint against Reuters and two Reuters journalists, Stuart Grudgings and Jason Szep, arising out of the Rohingya coverage, and that the complaint alleges violations of the Computer Crimes Act,” David Crundwell, Reuters’ head of corporate affairs, said in an email to the Bangkok Post.
“Based on our understanding, the complaint is under review by the authorities, but we have not been charged. If necessary we will defend our story, along with our right to publish, vigorously,” Mr Crundwell said from London.
The navy also filed a complaint against Phuket-based news website Phuketwan and its journalists Alan Morison and Chutima Sidasathien last October for a July 17, 2013 article which quoted the Reuters report.
Third Navy Fleet Commander Vice Admiral Tharathorn Khajitsuwan said the complaint was lodged because it was a matter of national security and the story had damaged the navy’s reputation.
Pol Capt Somkid Pornchan, assigned by the Vichit police station superintendent to investigate the Reuters complaint, said the news organisation complaint was being handled differently from Phuketwan because it is a foreign entity. He said it was a complicated process to send summonses to the two Reuters journalists, who are overseas.
Reuters said it still hoped the navy would reconsider the lawsuit against them in light of a subsequent acknowledgement by Thai officials of the seriousness of the trafficking problem, their efforts to combat it, and Reuters’ contribution which led to authorities releasing 900 trafficked refugees being held in Thailand, Mr Crundwell said.
He said Reuters was governed by its trust principles, dedicated to preserving Reuters’ independence, integrity and freedom from bias in the gathering and dissemination of information and news. “We stand by the fairness and accuracy of our Rohingya coverage,” Mr Crundwell said.
He addressed Phuketwan’s criticisms that Reuters did not defend the website after it ran their story. ”The case against Phuketwan arises out of aspects of our story being excerpted by Phuketwan from our original, and fully comprehensive, story. Their story was materially different in content and tone from the Reuters story,” Mr Crundwell said.
This article was first published in the Bangkok Post on 24 April 2014.