The email I received from Asia Sentinel's editor John Berthelsen mentioned "journalistic rules" and claimed that my posts on his site "especially about Brad Adams and Robert Horn, are libelous on their face and open us to the possibility of defamation suits. We have taken them down."
Of course John might’ve *cough* checked first and realised I hadn’t posted a single word about Time's Bangkok correspondent, Robert Horn, at Asia Sentinel - in fact I haven't written a single word about Horn anywhere since January 2013, three months ago!
Oh well, such are “journalistic rules” I guess - one of which now seems to be you censor your contributor by making up complete falsehoods about them.
In total I wrote only three pieces for Asia Sentinel, with the one that seems to have got them the most hot under the collar being about Human Rights Watch Asia Director, Brad Adams - more on that later. The other two pieces pulled by Asia Sentinel were an oped published a week ago about Abhisit where I made the clearly outrageous claim that the Democrat Party leader was a danger to democracy and a travel-themed piece about the Korean DMZ. Why were they pulled? Is travel writing that passé? Maybe Abhisit has finally understood how democracy works and now respects the will of the Thai people? Had John even read any of my copy before he “censored” it? After all he didn’t even seem to know what I had actually posted.
As an aside, my Robert Horn story, which was posted here on this blog several months ago, was picked up and published by two major Thai dailies – Khao Sod and Matichon – and was 100% factual. Horn, Time magazine’s Bangkok correspondent, helped promote a luxury boutique hotel owned by Democrat Party secretary, Jirayu (Joey) Tulyanond - Horn also very likely took freebies from Joey. There is no equivocation about that, Horn's promotion of Joey's property was widely published, and the Time correspondent who, co-incidentally, always takes a pro-Democrat Party position, has never denied or refuted it. If the English language Thai media’s much vaunted claim to “objectivity” can’t deal with even simple pieces of evidence that’s really their problem and shows why plenty of people believe they’re something of a joke.
I’m also well aware that certain members of the Thai foreign media corps and “human rights workers” – in a mix of petty jealously and politicisation - have a penchant for shutting down the debate on Thailand. There was a time when FCCT members and long term expat journalists, such as the recently deceased Dan White, regularly smeared, slandered and defamed anyone who dared to venture from the pre-agreed dominant Democrat Party/Bangkok Post line. Even more insidious and weird is that Human Rights Watch have admitted to me in writing that they "discussed" me with the US Embassy in Bangkok after I contacted HRW in confidence as a possible source - this has always struck me as beyond peculiar. That’s shameful but even more shameful is the Bangkok foreign media corps’ failure to properly get the story out that the Thai Army were murdering unarmed civilians in Bangkok 2010.
As for Brad Adams – in the next few days I am going to repost my piece about him that was pulled by Asia Sentinel and would challenge him to sue me. He won’t because he knows he has no case. In that piece I accused Adams of making statements about the Red Shirts that may have prejudiced a fair trial against them - statements he'd have never made against the accused of an American or British trial. In my view Brad Adams is a liar and the Human Rights Watch team in Thailand are deeply politicised with questions regarding their connections and sympathies to the military and the Thai extreme rightwing remaining unanswered.
I am also left wondering who lent on Asia Sentinel. I am not into conspiracy theories but clearly some pressure seems to have been placed on them hence John’s slightly rambling equivocation of the Horn story, a story that hadn’t actually appeared on Asia Sentinel and was months old. John has since denied anyone lent on him but I remain unconvinced. It’s all depressingly familiar and reveals that the Bangkok foreign media corps clearly don’t like the truth being told about them and will close ranks if threatened.
I also wrote to John and asked him to tell me where, exactly, the "libel" had occurred, who had complained and whether any legal threats were made or if legal advice was sought. His response made vague claims but gave no reference to any specific “defamation” or libel – how could he when there wasn’t any? – but he did say that he “got concerns from other AS [Asia Sentinel] editors who read your other postings, including one from an editor who has lived in Thailand and knows Adams.” So was Adams involved in helping to censor my work? Was a phone call made? Given Adams and HRW's previous behaviour I think we almost certainly can’t rule that out. And why the mention of the Robert Horn story at all, a story which had already been widely published and uncontested? Did Horn make a call as well? And why delete all of my work, including the stuff where even John makes no claim of there being any hint of supposed "defamation"?
In my view it seems that Asia Sentinel censored my writing on their site because of work I’d done elsewhere and because I'd previously written some home truths about their friends and associates. If that’s defamation, well, I’m still waiting for the writ.
But then that’s Thailand – a place where the more truth you tell the greater the defamation.