[Thailand] Investigative reporter detained

A Thai reporter from the Isranews Agency, an investigative reporting outlet, was charged with entering private property without permission in Bangkok on 9 August 2017. Nattaporn Veeranant was gathering information about an apartment that allegedly belongs to the family of a senior police officer who is under investigation for corruption.

Nattaporn was taken to the Paholyothin Police Station for interrogation and to be charged. Additionally, he was detained for nine hours from around 4 p.m. until after 1 a.m. on August 10. He was released on bail for 15,000 baht (approximately USD 450), which was posted by Prasong Lertratanawisute, executive director of Isra Institute, which runs the news agency.

According to the news reports, Nattaporn took a photo of the apartment from the outside and entered the compound as the gate was open at that time. He met the caretaker inside, introduced himself showing his press identity card, and explained his presence there.

Nattaporn said that he was baffled by the charge as he was granted an interview permission by the apartment’s caretaker, who has asked him to wait. Later, the police came to the place and took him to the police station.

Isranews defended their reporter saying what he did was in line with his work and the agency’s stance to perform their duty to bring the truth to the public without taking sides. Nattaporn was assigned to interview the owner of the apartment or of the Somthawil Real Estate Co., Ltd, which was listed as an  “unusually-acquired wealth” of former Police Chief Patcharawat Wongsuwan, who is being investigated by the National Counter Corruption Commission (NCCC).

The Thai Journalists Association (TJA) condemned the charge against the reporter saying it was unjust. TJA added that it was an attempt by police authorities to use legal action to obstruct the reporter from doing his professional work.

The group urged the police not to pursue the case as it does not follow the due process and possibly occurred because of an influential figure’s involvement in the case.

TJA drew attention to the confiscation of Nattaporn’s cellphone, which was held by the police even after he was released and only returned the morning after.

The journalist group called the incident a violation of his rights as a media person.