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The Bangkok North Municipal Court has dismissed a defamation lawsuit filed against Move Forward Party MP Rukchanok Srinork by two former Nation TV anchors on the ground that the two presenters are public figures and so can be criticized.

Rukchanok Srinork (File photo)

Anchalee Paireerak and Kanok Ratwongsakul, who have since left Nation TV and are now working for the right-wing channel Top News, sued Rukchanok over a speech she gave during a protest on 6 March 2021 in front of the Criminal Court. In her speech, Rukchanok criticized several Thai media outlets for broadcasting false information and said that if the media continued to spread disinformation, they would become a tool for the government to justify violence against protesters.

Yesterday (29 January), the Bangkok North Municipal Court dismissed the lawsuit. It ruled that Rukchanok’s speech was not about Nation TV or Anchalee and Kanok specifically, but that she was expressing her opinion about the Thai media’s coverage of pro-democracy protests. It also said that Rukchanok’s words were based on information she had and she was not spreading falsehood. It found her not guilty because her criticism was made in good faith, and ruled that Anchalee and Kanok are not entitled to damages.

The Court ruled that Anchalee and Kanok have previously broadcast fake news and did not take responsibility for it. As television presenters broadcasting information to the public, the Court said that they are public figures, and the public has the right to criticize their work as members of the media.

The Court noted that Rukchanok was answering a question posed by Nation TV reporter Ittipat Pinraroj about the media, but that she was speaking about the media in general and not specifically the two anchors. She only mentioned them because the outlet broadcast false information while they worked there.

The Court also noted that shortly before the protest, Nation TV, with Kanok as anchor, broadcast a recording of what was alleged to be a conversation between Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, former leader of the now-dissolved Future Forward Party, and former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. The recording was later proven to be fake, but Kanok and Nation TV never publicly apologized for broadcasting it, while Anchalee and Kanok did not present their programme ethically and often rudely criticized student protesters.

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