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November 3, 2014

‘Most sued journalist in living history’ gets support from British ambassador in Thailand

By William Turvill

The Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand and the British ambassador in Bangkok have expressed concern over a series of criminal defamation cases brought against a journalist investigating foreign crime in the country.

Andrew Drummond wrote a blog for Press Gazette this year claiming to be the "most sued journalist in living history", with 20 cases brought against him in a year.

In April, he said that he had won outright 11 out of 12 libel cases brought against him and that he was facing a further eight.

The freelance, who has worked for The Observer, Times and Evening Standard, said that three people were suing him after he "exposed [them] for cheating other foreigners in Thailand".

He wrote that the cases were costing him £3,000 a month to fight, with his opponents believing "I will run out of money long before they do".

He said: "The Thai court system does not award costs if cases are brought maliciously and without any substance. It is incumbent upon the defendant to pay lawyers to bring cases to get his costs back and damages. And enforcing court monetary orders can be problematic."

According to Drummond, Britain's ambassador Mark Kent and FCCT president Jonathan Head, the BBC's South East Asia correspondent, have expressed concern to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Bangkok.

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Drummond said that Head described the cases against him as "frivolous" and as examples of the court system being misused at the expense of a free press.

The journalist also said Head had attended a meeting between the Thai Supreme and Appeals Courts, with part of the problem being identified as poor policing of foreign fraudsters in the country.

Head said: "The number of cases filed by the same litigants, or people connected to them, strongly suggests  they are using Thailand's criminal defamation law to try to stop Mr Drummond from carrying out his legitimate role as a journalist.  

"Mr Drummond has been required by these cases to make repeated bail payments and court appearances in different locations. The questionable backgrounds of the people who have filed these cases should offer sufficient grounds for the Thai authorities to review the cases. 

“The FCCT has already expressed its concern over Mr. Drummond's situation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Our position on Mr Drummond is also supported by the British Embassy. 

"Misuse of the criminal defamation law to prevent a journalist from working would be a serious infringement of media freedom in Thailand, and the FCCT urges the Thai authorities to investigate the cases against Mr. Drummond."

The FCCT said in a statement: "The Foreign Correspondents' Club is giving its support to journalist Andrew Drummond in his efforts to get a series of criminal defamation cases against him reviewed by the Thai authorities."  

The Committee to Protect Journalists issued a statement last year saying: “We stand beside reporter Andrew Drummond whose investigative journalism I renowned for shining uncomfortable lights in some of Thailand’s darkest places. We strongly support the right to report without fear of reprisal and categorically condemn the threat of imprisonment he now faces.”

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