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British migrant rights defender Andy Hall found guilty in Natural Fruit defamation case

BANGKOK: Bangkok South Criminal Court today (Sept 20) handed down a guilty verdict against British migrant rights defender Andy Hall in a criminal defamation and Computer Crimes Act charges case brought against him by Natural Fruit Company Ltd.

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The Phuket News

Tuesday 20 September 2016, 10:58AM


The court found Mr Hall guilty for defamation, and sentenced him to four years in prison and ordered him to pay a B150,000 fine. Photo: AFP / file
The court found Mr Hall guilty for defamation, and sentenced him to four years in prison and ordered him to pay a B150,000 fine. Photo: AFP / file

The court found Mr Hall guilty for defamation, and sentenced him to four years in prison and ordered him to pay a B150,000 fine. Imprisonment will be suspended for two years.

Andy Hall will appeal the ruling and apply for bail, reported Finnish civil society organisation Finnwatch.

The charges Mr Hall was found guilty of related to a Finnwatch report titled “Cheap Has a High Price”, published in 2013.

The report outlined allegations of serious human rights violations at Natural Fruit’s pineapple processing plant in Prachuap Khiri Khan province.

“We are shocked by today’s verdict,” said Sonja Vartiala, Executive Director of Finnwatch.

“The report was authored and published by Finnwatch; we take full responsibility for it. Andy has been made a scapegoat in order to stifle other voices that speak out legitimately in support of migrant worker rights,” she said in a release issued today.

“This is a sad day for freedom of expression in Thailand. We fear that many other human rights defenders and victims of company abuse will be scared to silence by this ruling,” Ms Vartiala added.

“Thailand’s laws that allow for criminal punishment and even imprisonment for defamation are in clear breach of Thailand’s international human rights obligations. Instead of allowing companies to take human rights defenders to criminal courts for alleged defamation, Thailand needs to thoroughly follow through on allegations of violations of migrant workers’ rights.”

In October 2014, the Prakanong Court in Bangkok dismissed another criminal defamation case brought by Natural Fruit against Andy Hall on the grounds of a flawed prosecution that was in breach of the Thai Criminal Procedure Law.

Appeals in this case, submitted by both Natural Fruit and Thailand’s Attorney General, are currently being considered by Thailand’s Supreme Court after the Appeals Court threw out an initial appeal in September 2015.

In addition to the two criminal cases, Natural Fruit has also filed two civil claims for damages against Andy Hall totalling B400 million (about 10 million euros). These cases have been but on hold until the corresponding criminal cases have been concluded.

 

 

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Christy Sweet | 22 September 2016 - 11:46:01

Joe 12, the thing about writing for a reader is they need to be interested in getting past the first sentence and want to read more of your opinion. That's not happening with your diatribes on this topic. In fact on all the latest threads you're almost a parody on man-splaining. I write almost [italic] because by definition a parody is entertaining. 

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Rorii | 22 September 2016 - 07:18:02

Joe12, by your own words "Journalism is the work and distribution of reports on the interaction of events, facts, ideas, and people that are the "news of the day"" at the time of gathering information, on Natural Fruit, it was NOT "news of the day." He was indeed  gathering information,  events, facts etc, but so do police, doctors, teachers etc.

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Joe12 | 21 September 2016 - 19:16:35

Andy...read what I said, "Statements of fact are not protected by the Fair Comment defence and must be proved to be true or be protected by absolute or qualified privilege; the defamatory imputation conveyed by the comment is based on facts that are true and which were either set out, or sufficiently referred to, in the publication, or which are notorious." Mr Hall obviously couldn't prove "...that the imputation made by him is true" as per Section 330 which you quote.

Had Mr Hall approached the company for their view and obtained details of their employment practices such as wages paid to workers, overtime, clothing issue, safety practices, hygiene practices, then compared those to what is proscribed by law then reported these in his article, he would have at least have had a fighting chance of proving his defence ie. "...that the imputation made by him is true." (Section 330 which you quote). Had he sought legal advice, he would have been told this. It would be pretty hard to argue against the ISO 9001 accreditation that the company has.

In other words, Mr Hall just mouthed off with no factual basis whatsoever, other than the few whom he allegedly interviewed - out of many hundreds who are employed by the company. These individuals may have had an "axe to grind" with the company, but we don't know that. He may well have made up the story up to vindicate a certain position held by the publisher, again that is not known. Undoubtedly evidence would have been led by employed workers in the court case and their evidence also is not known. 

What is disturbing, is that Mr Hall is shown as being a co-author and the report was published in a language that was unfamiliar to him. We are not told of the extent of the editing that took place if at all and whether he was notified of any changes. Now we have a bleeding heart publication crying foul. I am all for activism and standing up for ones rights or the rights of others, but those must be done in a responsible way in order to avert what occurred to him. However, I am mindful that some just "bite the bullet" anyway and throw caution to the wind.

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Joe12 | 21 September 2016 - 16:15:09

Christy...Journalism is the work and distribution of reports on the interaction of events, facts, ideas, and people that are the "news of the day" and that informs society to at least some degree. The word applies to the occupation (professional or not), the methods of gathering information. If Mr Hall was not doing all of this, what on earth was he doing then??

He must be reading it, if you asking him a question? 

Like I keep telling you, they are not opinions but unadulterated garbage. People just state things that are blatantly wrong. That's not an opinion.

Read what I said about the defence of "Fair comment." It is the case because that is what the current state of the law is.  

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Joe12 | 21 September 2016 - 14:14:37

Kurt:

I comment on your posts because you make incorrect, outlandish and bizzare statements.

"Natural Fruit is a mayor supplier to the European drink Market" wrong.
"but for sure European Union will react on this"...rubbish. How do you know? Like I said the EU means nothing.

"..with still a red card stand by to block all thai fish products to enter EU market"... rubbish, wrong again. Read what entails getting a red card, yellow card blue card or any other coloured card. It means nothing. Most fish caught and sold to the EU market is not caught in Thailand, but processed here.

"poor working conditions and child labour in your factories"...you wrong again. Mr Hall was convicted of criminal defamation meaning what he wrote was not true, now all you are doing is repeating the same thing. I would have thought you would noticed that Natfruit has an ISO 9001 accreditation, so the rest of what you say about the EU blocking imports means nothing. 

"Mr Hall, a hero with strong backbone"...I would call him an idiot, without first getting legal advice as to what and how he should be going about researching as an investigative journalist. And again all you are doing is doing the same thing, but at least you have an excuse, you are just plain dumb.
As the using s.44, best read about what that is for.

"Court proceedings already cost tax payers money" ... wrong again. The plaintiff who brings the action pays. 

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Andy | 21 September 2016 - 14:00:07

Joe12
You continually insult others on here, why can't you make your point without being obnoxious? 
You wrote: "...'convicted even when true' that's a real good one! That would be the most ridiculous statement I have ever read here on PH (or anywhere else for that matter)."
Thing is I am correct and you are wrong.
Section 330. Truth as a Defense
In case of defamation, if the person prosecuted for defamation can prove that the imputation made by him is true, he shall not be punished. But he shall not be allowed to prove if such imputation concerns personal matters, and such proof will not be benefit to the public.
More humble pie sir? 


 

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Christy Sweet | 21 September 2016 - 12:59:38

Joe 12, Mr Hall is not a journalist.  No one has made a claim he's reading this page, either. Time and time again you cannot simply accept other's opinions and rely on your tired ploys of insult and dismissal such as your last statement. So what if Hall is reading this? I'm offering my opinion on a reader's forum for just that purpose.  What exactly are you disagreeing with anyway? I claim if it can be proved to be in a public interest, a court may not convict on a defamation claim, so you disagree that is true?  

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Joe12 | 21 September 2016 - 12:31:50

Christy...Statements of fact are not protected by the Fair Comment defence and must be proved to be true or be protected by absolute or qualified privilege; the defamatory imputation conveyed by the comment is based on facts that are true and which were either set out, or sufficiently referred to, in the publication, or which are notorious. In other words Mr Hall is poor journalist and the publisher is negligent in not getting legal advice first, before publishing his nonsense or before even embarking on his "research." At least he would be briefed as to how to go about what facts were needed to avert the action that they now face.

I doubt if Mr Hall will be bothered with armchair lawyers like you, let alone read PN.

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Kurt | 21 September 2016 - 09:57:24

swerve: Read better, don't focus on me only. Don't become obsessed.
Why you not read more BP comments as well?

My comments, as from others here, are based on love of thailand.
Make it a better country in Law enforcement ( existing laws) and lift the existence level of the poor thai people.
The gap of the 'haves' and 'no haves' is to big.

My comments are 'sweet' compared what you can read in bkk post.
Wish you reading fun.  
A daily base or a several times a week base of others, it doesn't make a difference. 
Do not judge, just read, and perhaps you learn to write your own comments as well?

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swerv | 21 September 2016 - 08:12:19

Kurt: You are the only one on a daily basis making derogatory and negative remarks about Thai people, Thailand, Phuket, government officials etc.
No one else does it on the same scale as you.

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