Police arrest journalist, photographer over coverage of graffiti in March 2023
A journalist and a freelance photographer were arrested on Monday for allegedly being “accomplices” in the defacement of a historical monument in March last year.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the Criminal Court has approved police request to detain the two journalists. Police presented CCTV footage of Yha talking to the vandal and other activists during a separate protest the day before, as evidence of the photographer's complicity. However, both have posted bail of 35,000 baht each.
Nuttaphol Meksobhon, who works for the independent online publication Prachatai, was taken into custody on Monday by police officers armed with only an arrest warrant issued in May 2023. The suspect did not receive a summons before his arrest.
Freelance photographer Natthaphon “Yha” Phanphongsanon was also similarly apprehended.
Both the journalist and photographer had been reporting on an incident in which a 25-year-old activist spray painted an anarchist symbol and a crossed-out “112” on the exterior wall of the Emerald Buddha Temple.
On Monday, the duo were taken to the Grand Palace Police Station, where they were denied bail and shifted to different police stations.
Nuttaphol was moved to Chulalongkorn Police Station, while Natthaphon was shifted to Thung Song Hong Police Station. Both spent the night in custody.
On Tuesday morning, the freelance photographer said police had not presented any evidence to support their arrests, adding that their detention was based solely on the warrant. Both men were taken to Ratchadapisek Criminal Court on Tuesday to await a decision on whether they will be detained further.
Meanwhile, the Thai Media Democracy Alliance issued a statement declaring that “journalism is not a crime” and that reporting on acts of dissent, whether legal or not, is not a criminal act.
Tewarit Maneechai, Prachatai’s editor-in-chief, said reporting an incident should not be seen as an endorsement of the actions covered.
“Our stance is that we are not part of the conflict; we just want to present the facts as they unfold,” he said.
The incident in March, captured on video, grabbed a great deal of attention due to the temple’s significance as a royal structure and the resonance of the number 112, representing the draconian lese majeste law.