2 Journalists Arrested for Defamation

The editor and a reporter for the Chakraval (Universe) Daily newspaper were arrested on Saturday for allegedly causing social instability and defaming two top police officials, Municipal Judicial Police Chief Heng Pov said.

Chakraval Editor Keo Sorphoan and reporter Chey Kamara were arrested while eating breakfast at a Daun Penh district restaurant on Saturday because of two recent stories published by the newspaper that criticized the head of the national police.

The two were arrested after a complaint from a lawyer for National Police Director General Hok Lundy, Heng Pov said on Sunday.

The articles were both written by Chey Kamara. The first one, published early last week, was headlined, “Landcruiser Bought by Hok Lundy for Sau Phan Confiscated; Will Customs Take Revenge on Hok Lundy?” It claimed that an illegally smuggled luxury vehicle discovered by customs officials had been purchased by Hok Lundy for Sau Phan, national police first deputy director.

But police were not moved to act until a second article, titled “Murderers Looking to Kill Four Mobile Customs Officers,” was published in the newspaper’s Saturday edition.

The article reported that two of four customs officers involved in the smuggled-car bust had re­ceived threatening phone calls. “The intimidation occurred after customs confiscated cars,” it stated. It did not mention the earlier article, the suspicious Landcruiser or Hok Lundy.

Sau Phan said on Sunday that the newspaper’s allegations were untrue and could hurt his political reputation. “I am a Funcinpec member,” he said. “If Hok Lundy bought me a car, people would think he was buying me.”

Regarding the second article, he said, “This headline could cause trouble between police and customs. If a customs officer were accidentally killed, everyone would blame the police.”

Prach Sim, secretary general of the Club of Cambodian Journal­ists, criticized the arrests on Sunday, saying they were an attempt to intimidate a nominally free press.

“If [Hok Lundy] claims he is innocent, he should explain himself to the public and the media,” Prach Sim said.

“Police have the right to question [journalists], but detaining them overnight is an abuse of journalists’ freedom.”

Hok Lundy could not be reached by phone on Sunday.

Keo Sorphoan and Chey Ka­mara are scheduled to appear in Phnom Penh Municipal Court today.


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