Court Dismisses Defamation Suit Against Thai PBS, Reporter

Top: An episode of Thai PBS program ‘Citizen Reporters’ which aired Sept. 1, 2015, drew a defamation complaint against its broadcaster and reporter for story about a mine-poisoned community.

BANGKOK — A court Wednesday dismissed a defamation claim against the Thai Public Broadcasting Service and four media professionals for broadcasting the report on the environmental impact of a gold mine.

Refuting Tungkum Ltd.’s argument that its mine had no impact on the environment, the Criminal Court was convinced by governmental findings submitted by Thai PBS that found the Huay River in Loei province was badly polluted and dismissed the case.

“We presented information showing that authorities from the Ministry of Public Health did forbid use of the river,” Sor Rattanamanee Polkla, one of the defense lawyers, said Wednesday.

Read: Court to Weigh Gold Mine’s Defamation Case Against Thai PBS

Tungkum’s original complaint said the news segment produced by 15-year-old community member and citizen journalist Wanpen Khunna and her friends in Loei province damaged its reputation. The report, aired by Thai PBS, included a reference to the mine as cause for the environmental damage which left the river’s water undrinkable.

The company, which has brought more than a dozen suits against community members opposed to its operations in Loei, demanded 50 million baht in damages from Thai PBS and its staff for criminal defamation and online defamation.

Wirada Saelim, the host of the “Citizen Reporters” program, said although the segment only provided the community’s side of the story, its purpose was to give a platform for a disenfranchised community to present their perspective.

The court today said the media organization executed its duties in good faith. In its ruling, the court said Wirada only repeated what was reported by the teen citizen journalist.

The defense team pointed out that though the Pollution Control Department did not blame the pollution solely on the mine, it concluded the Huay River was polluted and must be evaluated every three months. The Tungkum-operated mine is located in the mountains above the river.

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