Two Thai journalists arrested for reporting on temple vandalism Courts News
Police say the journalists were accused of collaborating in vandalizing a historic site in an incident last year.
Two Thai journalists arrested for covering the vandalism of a temple in Bangkok with anti-monarchy writings have been released on bail, a group of lawyers said.
Nataphol Mixopun, a reporter from independent online news outlet Prachatai, and freelance photographer Nataphol Phanvongsanon were arrested on Monday, almost a year after the incident in Bangkok.
The Royal Palace Police Station, which made the arrests, said Maksobun and Phanvongsanon were accused of collaborating in vandalizing a historic site.
Notaphol wrote a story and Natapone shot a video of the incident, which was widely circulated.
This crime is punishable by up to seven years in prison and a fine of 700,000 baht ($19,600).
The two arrested men said that they were only doing their work as journalists.
The charges relate to an incident on March 28, 2023, in which a 25-year-old activist spray-painted an anarchist symbol and the number 112 in a line through it on the exterior wall of the revered Emerald Buddha Temple, which is located in the Grand Palace complex.
The number 112 is a reference to the “lese majeste” law, which protects the royal family from criticism.
The Thai Journalists Association defended the journalists and said they were concerned about “harming media rights and freedom” in the country.
“It was necessary for journalists to cover the news,” she said.
Prime Minister Sritha Thavisin said on Tuesday that the government was “fair” on press freedom, and said it was up to the police to decide what was appropriate.
“Everything depends on the law. There is no harassment,” he said.
The journalists were detained overnight at two separate police stations after their arrest, then transferred on Tuesday to the Bangkok Criminal Court, where they were released on bail after posting bail of 35,000 baht ($980) each, Thai Lawyers for Human Rights said.
The editor of Prachatai News said that the journalists who covered the story went to the temple without knowing in advance that the graffiti would be done.
“They were covering the news as journalists,” Tiwarit Manishay said.
He added that his colleagues were not aware of the charges against them before their arrest, despite the arrest warrant issued in May.
“Their arrests have created fear about news coverage of sensitive issues,” he said. In the 2023 World Press Freedom Index, Thailand ranked 106th out of 180 countries.
Police Lt. Colonel Phawat Wattasopat, deputy director of Phra Ratchawang Police Station, told Reuters news agency that police had sufficient information to support their arrest.
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