21 January 2004
Four defendants in the 2000 shooting of a news editor of Thailand’s northern daily were acquitted in Chiang Mai court’s verdict today.
The court acquitted the defendants because Amnat Jongyotying, the plaintiff who was shot at his stomach by one the defendants, was unable to recognize the gunman. The court also cited the that the witness’ account was weak and inconsistent.
Amnat, the editor of Northern Daily, said that he was disappointed by the verdict. “I felt I have no credibility,’’ he told Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA).
“I am losing a fight for press freedom,” he said.
In earlier testimony, Amnat said he recognized well the gunman even though he saw him for the first time.
The broad daylight shooting took place in a town center. Amnat was getting into his car when he saw an assailant walking towards him before he opened fired. The second man then attacked and beat him up to make sure that he died. Amnat said he escaped death by pretending to be death.
Witness saw the two men running to a car with one driver and the fourth man waiting inside before running off.
It was unclear if Amnat would appeal.
The attempted murder was a direct threat to the press freedom as it was motivated by his expose of corruption at provincial and local administration in Chiang Mai.
Local media associations, Committee to Project Journalists, SEAPA and other have sought protection and support for him and his families to keep his newspaper business running.