A Thai reporter working for Voice TV, Thailand’s liberal and political-centric TV channel was sentenced to two years in prison over a Twitter comment on an ongoing labor dispute at a Thai poultry farm.
The 30-year old reporter Suchanee Cloitre was slapped by a lawsuit from Thammakaset, a supplier of poultry to the country’s agri-giant Betagro. It is worth noting that there were nineteen other lawsuits slapped against activists and journalists for their comments on the Lopburi poultry farm located in central Thailand.
The Human Rights Watch and several other critics have pointed out that cases such as the aforementioned one were a classic example of the “strategic litigation against public participation”. Also known as SLAPP lawsuits, cases such as this are filed by giant corporations with excess power, money, and a strong legal counsel against individuals such as activists and journalists with little or no budget for fighting such painstaking legal battles.
Often done as a measure to suppress the truth with regards to potential human rights violations or environmental hazards, several affluent corporations have been known to pursue SLAPP lawsuits against journalists and rights activists.
What’s more, activists and watchdogs have further revealed that the criminal libel laws of Thailand are much prone to abuse. While the Thai reporter was granted bail at a 75,000 baht by the Lopburi provincial court, her lawyer stated that Cloitre will appeal the verdict.
“I am shocked and never imagined such a harsh ruling,” said the reporter. In an interview with the New York Times, she said that she was only simply carrying out her duties as a journalist.
“I didn’t intend to harm anyone. I think the verdict will have an effect on Thai media. They’ll have to be much more careful when reporting anything,” said the reporter.
The legal disputes surrounding the poultry farm Thammakaset began in 2016 when the workers filed a complaint against the farm as they were allegedly forced to work more than twenty hours a day, without a single day off. Moreover, they have also stated that they were paid less than the minimum wage with no compensation for overtime.