Bangkok, Feb 13 (EFE).- Two journalists were due in a Bangkok court on Tuesday following their arrests after they covered a graffiti protest incident on Grand Palace grounds last year.
Reporter Nuttaphol Meksobhon, who works for the independent media outlet Prachatai, and freelance photographer Nattaphon Phanphongsanon, were arrested Monday and detained overnight without bail, accused of being accomplices to damaging a historic site and vandalizing a wall in a public place, according to the outlet.
The journalists, among others, covered an incident in March last year in which an activist spray-painted an anarchist symbol and the number 112 with a strike through it, signifying opposition to the country’s strict lese majeste law – also known as Article 112 of the penal code, onto the exterior wall of the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, located within the capital’s Grand Palace.
Videos of the incident and the activist’s arrest were widely reported at the time by the Thai press, as the temple is part of a tourist complex of historic royal buildings.
Pratchatai reported that the pair had been “among several reporters at the scene” and Nuttaphol “did not receive a summons prior to being arrested.”
The outlet’s editor-in-chief said the pair went to cover the news and it was “not equivalent to support wrongdoing.”
“Our stance is not a party to the dispute. We wanted to present the facts as it happened,” said Tewarit, according to Prachatai.
The news of the arrest of the two journalists sparked prompt reaction from Thailand’s main media outlets and legal and human rights groups, which published editorials and messages condemning the arrests and calling for press freedom.
According to Thai Enquirer, in recent years “Thailand has faced significant scrutiny over its treatment of journalists and media freedom, a concern that has been highlighted by several high-profile cases.”
“The arrest of Natthaphon Meksophon from Prachatai and a freelance photographer for their involvement in reporting an incident at Wat Phra Kaew is the latest in a series of events that underscore the precarious state of press freedom in the country,” it said in an editorial on Tuesday.
Human Rights Watch senior researcher on Thailand, Sunai Phasuk, wrote on X that “media freedom is under attack” in the Southeast Asian country and maintained that “journalism isn’t a crime.”
The Thai Media Alliance for Democracy (DemAll) emphasized that “journalists are not criminals” and highlighted that reporting news is a legitimate duty of the press.
“We condemn the actions of the authorities who exercise power in a way that imposes an offense in a sweeping manner, violating rights and freedom of the press. And we call for the unconditional release of the Prachatai reporter and freelance photographer as soon as possible,” it added. EFE