One thought on “Fixing the Journalist-Fixer Relationship

  1. I started a small online news site in Thailand that was soon instrumental in exposing the pushback of Rohingya boatpeople from Thailand in 2008-2009. We were too small to deal with the likely blowback, so we enlisted the help of a regional newspaper with a good reputation, the South China Morning Post. In the years that followed, we continued to cover the Rohingya story and went out of our way to help international media. My colleague, Chutima Sidasathian, worked as a fixer for the BBC, AFP, the New York Times, the ABC in Australia and many other organisations because we wanted the story told and told accurately. She worked for Reuters for four days, allowing their journalists access to contacts whose trust it had taken her years to gain. In 2013, we extracted a news story from a Reuters feature and were sued by the Royal Thai Navy over one paragraph, a Reuters paragraph that was attributed directly and accurately to Reuters. The navy considered suing Reuters but decided to only press charges of criminal defamation and computer crimes against Phuketwan.com. We faced seven years in jail but decided to ignore advice to flee or apologise. We fought the case with no help from Reuters and a judge dismissed all charges. My colleague, who has since gained a PhD in Rohingya anthropology, has actually been a fixed to two Pulitzer winners – the Reuters feature series on the Rohingya and Ian Urbani’s series for the New York Times, the Outlaw Oceans. Chutima is not one to complain or to seek to share the glory that Reuters in particular sought, or to criticise the quality journalism that resulted in wider knowledge of important issues. But Phuketwan.com folded soon after winning the case. Our generous policy of helping others to cover the Rohingya saga did not trigger an appropriate reaction from Reuters. Fixers need much greater protection than presently provided by the news agencies and media outlets that fly in, fly out, and benefit from their knowledge and contacts.

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