REGIONAL PRESS FREEDOM advocates have expressed concern over the scheduled indictment of two journalists in Thailand for criminal defamation and violation of the country’s Computer Crime Act (CCA).

The Southeast Asian Press Alliance, a regional alliance of media organizations advocating press freedom, said the indictment of Alan Morison and Chutima Sidasathian “may spell doom” for their online news site, Phuketwan.

In an emailed alert sent out to news bureaus in the region, SEAPA said the two journalists will be indicted before the provincial prosecutors’ office on March 10. The two are accused of defaming the Royal Thai Navy and for violating the Computer Crime Act in a report on the plight of Burmese Muslim refugees in Thailand.

Violation of Thailand’s Computer Crime Act carries a penalty of five years. The Philippines is also grappling with its own cybercrime law after the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of several provisions in Republic Act 10175, or the Cybercrime Prevention Act. One of the provisions ruled as constitutional defines cyber libel and increases the penalty for crimes committed using computers by one degree.

The SEAPA alert quoted Chutima as saying that the online news site will almost certainly fold up with the recent developments, as all of the site’s junior staff had already resigned “because of mental pressure.”

“Without me and Alan outside jail, it is likely the newspaper would be closed,” Chutima was quoted as saying. Phuketwan has won several human rights awards for stories on the plight of Rohingya Muslim refugees.

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