Thai reporter gets jail in libel case filed by poultry farm

Author: Busaba Sivasomboon and Grant Peck, Star Tribune, Published on: 24 December 2019

A court in Thailand on Tuesday sentenced a reporter to two years in prison for criminal libel for a comment she tweeted about a labor abuse grievance at a poultry farm.

The case against Suchanee Cloitre, then working for Voice TV, is one of 20 lawsuits launched by Thammakaset Co. against 25 workers, activists and journalists.

Critics such as Human Rights Watch say these types of libel cases are meant to deter lawsuits filed in the public interest, such as by labor activists and environmentalists. They decry criminal libel laws as especially open to abuse. So-called "strategic litigation against public participation" lawsuits are meant to intimidate, since they often pit corporations with strong financial and legal resources against individuals and groups operating on shoestring budgets.

The Lopburi provincial court in central Thailand freed Suchanee on 75,000 baht ($2,490) bail after sentencing her. She will appeal the verdict, said her lawyer, Waraporn Uthairangsee.

"I am so shocked. I never thought that it would be such a very harsh verdict," Suchanee, who now works for a Thai television station, told The Associated Press. "I was doing my duty as a journalist in reporting what has happened, I didn't intend to harm anyone."

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Related companies: Thammakaset 2