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Thailand 17 April 2007

Two-year jail terms for talk show hosts who said deputy governor took bribes

Reporters Without Borders today condemned the two-year prison sentences which a Bangkok court imposed on two TV talk show hosts on 12 April after finding them guilty of defaming deputy Bangkok governor Samart Ratchapolasit by saying on two different occasions that he had taken bribes.

“We are not claiming that the allegations made by the two TV presenters were in any way based on established facts, but the Thai courts must find an alternative punishment to prison sentences, even suspended ones,” the press freedom organisation said.

Samak Sundaravej and Dusit Siriwan, the hosts of This Morning in Thailand on public television’s Channel 5, were sued by Samart for claiming on two different programmes in January 2006 that he accepted bribes from a construction company. Finding them guilty of slander, the judge said they did not verify their information. Samak, a former Bangkok governor, and Dusit, a former senator, are both supporters of deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

They have paid bail of 200,000 bahts (4,530 euros) to avoid going to jail while they appeal. The court also ordered them to pay for the publication of an apology in the country’s leading national daily for three days in a row. Samart is also demanding 100 million bahts (about 2 million euros) in damages.

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