22 January 2004
Source: Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA)
Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA) today expresses serious concern over a court decision to acquit four defendants in the 2000 shooting of Amnat Jongyotying, news editor of Thailand’s northern daily.
“This is the case that culprits must be brought to justice. We are concerned that this court decision would further discourage Thai media from fighting for their freedom,” said the statement.
International community has paid much attention to the court case which it has hoped would set tone for a fair trial on other press freedom violations.
Despite the decrease in the physical attacks including fatal ones against journalists in Thailand over the past few years, none of the culprits in these cases were prosecuted, not to mention mastermind.
Four defendants in the 2000 shooting of Amnat, news editor of Northern Daily were acquitted in Chiang Mai court’s verdict on Tuesday.
The court acquitted the defendants because Amnat, the plaintiff who was shot at his stomach by one of the defendants, was unable to recognize the gunman. The court also cited that the witness’ account was weak and inconsistent.
Amnat 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.