Date ,December 26, 2013
Charged: Alan Morison will face a Thai court next month. Photo: SuppliedAn Australian journalist could face up to five years in jail after he was charged on Christmas Eve with bringing the reputation of Thailand's navy into disrepute.
Alan Morison's online newspaper Phuketwan published a story five months ago that included a paragraph from a Reuters article that was critical of Thai authorities' handling of the Rohingya asylum seekers from Myanmar.
Both he and his colleague Chutima Sidasathian were facing up to five years in jail and a fine of up to $3500 after they were charged with breaching the country's controversial Computer Crimes Act and bringing the navy's reputation into disrepute.
The pair were expected to face a Thai courtroom next month.
AdvertisementMr Morison is a former deputy editor of The Age.
He said it was the first time the military had used the little-used act against the media.
''The Thai navy has a very good reputation for rescuing tourists and generally looking after Thailand's borders pretty well, but the question of whether the Rohingya boat people are being handled in the way they should be … has been looked at pretty closely by the international media,'' he said.
A Reuters spokesperson backed the story, calling it ''fair and balanced''.
Critics of the Thai government accused it of using the Computer Crimes Act to curtail human rights and free-speech campaigners.
The Department of Foreign Affairs was aware of the case and said embassy officials in Bangkok were providing consular assistance to Mr Morison.
The Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance was concerned about the journalist's plight and what the charges could mean for press freedom in the country.
''The MEAA expresses its deep concern for the journalists involved in this allegation and calls on Thai authorities to drop any charges against them,'' MEAA federal secretary Christopher Warren said.
Human rights activists, lawyers and academics across the world had also voiced their support for the pair.
If the navy did not drop the charges, Mr Morison said a protest rally would be organised outside the Thai consulate in Melbourne to coincide with his court appearance.
The Rohingya people, who are Muslims, have been forced to leave their homeland after being persecuted by the country's Buddhist majority in mob rampages.
Hundreds of thousands have sought asylum in Malaysia, Bangladesh and Thailand.
The Royal Thai Navy could not be reached for comment
Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/