Gov’t Considers Blacklisting French Filmmaker

Government spokesman and Min­i­ster of Information Khieu Kan­harith said Sunday that he is considering blacklisting a French filmmaker who produced a 2003 documentary about sex tourism in Cam­bodia.

But he denied allegations that the government last week prevented Daniel Laine from leaving the coun­try in an attempt to extort mon­ey from him.

France-based Reporters Without Bor­ders issued a statement Thurs­day alleging that “corrupt Cambod­ian officials” were preventing Laine from leaving the country and had de­manded that he shell out $125,000 to settle a flimsy, three-year-old court case brought against him for his film “Investigation into Sex Tourism in Cambodia.”

“The current proceedings against him are unacceptable and con­stitute a form of institutional ex­tortion,” the Thursday statement said. “He now faces the possibility of being place[d] in custody while the Phnom Penh Municipal Court reaches a decision on his case.”

The media rights group claimed Cam­bodian officials encouraged an un­identified French citizen interviewed in Laine’s film to file the lawsuit because it did not like the way the filmmaker portrayed Cam­bodia. The French citizen also had a grudge of his own against Laine: Though he signed a broadcast release form and his face was pixilated and his voice distorted, his fam­ily saw the film about the sex trade and recognized him in it.

The lawsuit accused Laine of “broad­casting false information” and a “report banned by the authorities.”

Reporters Without Borders claims that when Laine attempted to leave the country in 2003, the gov­­ernment blocked him from do­ing so until he signed an agreement promising to send the government $125,000 upon his return to France. The money was to be shared with the French national. But Laine never paid the money. In­stead he filed court complaints in France and Phnom Penh.

When Laine recently returned to Cam­bodia, authorities detained him and refused to let him leave until he paid up.

“The agreement has no legal value because Laine was forced to sign it,” Reporters Without Borders said in their statement. “His documentary just portrayed a reality and that does not attack a country’s dignity.”

Khieu Kanharith acknowledged Sun­day that police called Laine in for questioning last week at the Min­is­try of Interior, and spoke with him for about an hour. But he said po­lice released him because there was no warrant from the court to de­­tain him.

He added that Laine has already left the country. Khieu Kanharith said Sunday that the French man who appeared in Laine’s film was seek­ing $125,000, and that authorities had not asked for the money.

Khieu Kanharith condemned Laine’s film as “unprofessional work.” He also claimed Laine ap­proached poor Cambodian families and told them he was looking for a vir­gin wife. “Poor Cambodian families brought out their daughters to show him hoping their daughters could marry and go live in France,” he said. “But Daniel Laine featured it in his film claiming Cambodian par­ents sold their daughters. He ex­ploits poor Cambodian families. I am considering whether he should be blacklisted.”

Khieu Kanharith said Laine and the plaintiff were the “same kind of per­son,” and said their dispute was an example of “gang mistreats gang.” Reporters Without Borders will support any journalist, and should be more selective about the ca­ses they take, he argued. “Re­porters Without Borders is too supportive,” he said. “they think all journalists are faithful.”

Claude Abily, spokeswoman at the French Embassy, said Sunday that she could not comment on a ju­dicial matter or on Laine’s whereabouts, but added that the embassy is following his case closely.

Phnom Penh Police Chief Touch Naruth said he was in a meeting and was unable to comment when contacted Sunday.

Mok Chito, chief of the penal po­lice department for the Ministry of In­terior and Keo Thea, deputy mun­ic­ipal anti-trafficking police chief, both said they had no knowledge of the case.

Ouk Savuth, chief prosecutor of the Phnom Penh court, declined to comment.

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