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80 Myanmar and Thai NGOs support 'Nation' reporter sued by Thai mining firm in Myanmar; concern over chilling effect for media and human rights defenders raised

"Myanmar and Thai NGOs support 'Nation' reporter hit by suit for 'defaming' mining firm", 15 May 2017

Eighty Thai and Myanmar NGOs have voiced their support for The Nation journalist Pratch Rujivanarom, who has been sued by a Thai mining company over a report about the environmental impacts of a tin mine affecting local people in Myanmar.

The group of 80 human rights and environmental protection organisations led by Reporters without Borders issued a joint statement yesterday urging the Thai government to protect press freedom, decriminalise defamation, and align the 2007 Computer Crime Act with international laws and standards.

The groups also demanded that Myanmar Phongpipat Co Ltd, the Thai mining company operating in Myanmar, withdraw all criminal proceedings against Pratch and The Nation newspaper immediately.

The company claimed that an article written by Pratch...regarding the impact of the company’s tin mine on villagers in Myaung Pyo village in Myanmar’s Tanintharyi region damaged its reputation.

...The mining company said the allegation that the mine had contaminated the river and water supply of Myaung Pyo village was false and the mine had never discharged heavy metals into the environment. 

The water from the mine contained safe levels of manganese, arsenic and lead, which would not harm people’s heath according to international standards, the mining company claimed.

The groups...insisted that the lawsuit created a chilling effect for the media and human rights defenders, and conflicted with Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Thailand is a state party.