The International Federation of Journalists expressed its concerned over a criminal defamation case being brought against a Cambodian newspaper.
On September 22, Koh Kong police officer Chen Sovann filed a criminal defamation suit against local paper Cambodia Today, demanding 10 million riel (US$2,500). The lawsuit came two days after the paper published an article by journalist Eng Meng Leng alleging that Sovann helped a suspected human trafficker flee the country.
“Defamation should not be a criminal offence, yet Cambodian authorities continue to ignore the Cambodian Press Law by allowing criminal cases to be brought against journalists,” said IFJ President Christopher Warren.
“Eng Meng Leng is one of a growing number of Cambodian journalists who have been threatened with criminal lawsuits or even violence after reporting on police, military or government activity; this is a blatant abuse of the legal system and a huge threat to press freedom,” said Warren.
Eng Meng Leng said he had evidence that Sovann helped the manager of Hotel Chay Hour II in Phnom Penh to escape during an investigation into his involvement in human trafficking.
However, Sovann argued that he was the one who arrested the man in Thailand, and brought him back to Cambodia. Earlier this year, fellow Cambodian journalist Kay Kimsong was convicted of defamation for his alleged involvement in a defamatory article about Foreign Affairs Minister Hor Namhong.
Kimsong was charged under both civil and criminal law and ordered to pay 30 million riel (US$7,300) after the Supreme Court of the Kingdom of Cambodia upheld the guilty verdict against him. The threat of a jail sentence forces self-censorship among journalists, and prevents critical reporting of governments and other powerful figures.
The IFJ believes that no journalist should go to jail for doing their job, and is campaigning for the decriminalisation of defamation. For more information, please visit: http://www.ifj-asia.org/page/defamation.html
For further information contact Christopher Warren on +61 (0) 411 757 668
The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries