The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has called for a full review of the case that saw an editor successfully prosecuted on September 15 for defamation under UNTAC law instead of the Cambodian Press Law.
Dam Sith, editor in chief and publisher of the newspaper Khmer Conscience, was sentenced in absentia to pay a fine of 8 million riel (USD 2,000) for disinformation and 10 million riel (USD 2,500) for defamation of the Cambodian government, under Article 62 of the United Nations Transitional Authority of Cambodia (UNTAC) law, which was created during the transitional period of the UN in Cambodia.
“The use of this outdated law to penalise a journalist with disproportionately high fines is very disturbing,” IFJ President Christopher Warren said.
“The IFJ is astonished that despite a recent decision which removed jail sentences from defamation law, and the existence of the more liberal 1993 Press Law, the Cambodian system is still convicting journalists of defamation under the inappropriate UNTAC law.”
According to IFJ affiliate the Cambodian Association for the Protection of Journalists (CAPJ) Dam Sith refused to reveal his unnamed sources for an article published in June 2006 accusing Deputy Prime Minister Sok of corruption.
“Journalists are bound by their ethical obligation to their sources,” Warren said.
“To reveal a source could not only endanger the source, it could also prevent people talking to journalists about sensitive issues for fear of a similar fate,” he said.
Another Cambodian editor, You Saravuth, was forced to leave the country and has reportedly been granted asylum in Thailand by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
According to local reports Saravuth, the former editor of Sralanh Khmer, was forced to flee the country in July after receiving death threats for an article that implicated Okhna (Lord) Hun Tho, a nephew of Prime Minister Hun Sen, in land grabbing. Hun Tho is also suing Saravuth for “misinformation”.
The IFJ, the global organisation representing more than 500,000 journalists worldwide, reiterates its calls for the Cambodian government to totally remove defamation from the criminal code.
For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific +61 2 9333 0919
The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 115 countries