Just doing his job, he says; freedom of the press seen as under attack
PUBLISHED : 13 Feb 2024 at 15:29
A freelance news photographer charged and held in custody for photographing a man spray-painting protest graffiti on the outside wall of the Temple of the Emerald Buddha last year has vowed to fight the case in court.
Nattaphon Phanphongsanon said on Tuesday he was just doing his job, and had no other involvement, when he took photos of a man spray-painting an anarchistic symbol alongside the number 112 on the exterior wall of the Temple of the Emerald Buddha on March 28 last year. The number 112 represents the lese majeste law.
“I followed my news schedule in going there. I did not get involved in it. I knew that my job was to only take photos,” he told reporters on Tuesday.
Mr Nattaphon and Nuttaphol Meksobhon, a reporter for online news outlet Prachathai, were taken into custody separately on Monday. The two were charged with showing support for the vandalising of a historical site. They both denied the allegations and are being represented by Thai Lawyers for Human Rights.
They were taken from Phra Ratchawang police station to the Criminal Court on Tuesday, and police applied to detain them for another 12 days.
Their lawyers applied for their release on bail. The court denied their request and they were remanded in custody. (continues below)
A man is seen using black paint to deface the Temple of the Emerald Buddha on March 28 last year. (File photo: TV screen capture)
Mr Nattaphon and Mr Nutthaphol denied having ever received summonses to answer the charges before police served them with arrest warrants on Monday.
Their arrests have fuelled debate over press freedom, and fears that authorities are trying to silence the media.
Legal counsel Kritsadang Nutcharat on Tuesday condemned his clients’ arrest, saying it went against the freedom of the news media in performing their duty. “The media represents the people. If the media cannot perform their duty, the people will not know what is going on,” he said.
Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin said the government gave the media a free hand, and promised fairness in the case of the two men. “The case will be handled according to the law,” he said at Government House.