Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said yesterday that he had asked for the release of one of two journalists arrested Tuesday for alleged extortion.
“I sent a letter to the Kompong Cham governor to ask for the release of [Press Council of Cambodia vice president] Kang Arun because he was not involved in this case. The reporter took the bribe. It is his wrongdoing,” Mr Kanharith told a reporter yesterday at the Information Ministry.
Mr Arun and Prum San, a reporter for the newspaper Kampuchea Sachak, were arrested in Phnom Penh after allegedly accepting money from undercover police posing as middlemen for a commune chief, according to PCC President Sok Sovann. They were charged yesterday and are being detained in Kompong Cham province, he added.
Nu Lap, Srei Santhor district police chief, said he received a complaint from Leng Horm, chief of Pram Yam commune, on Jan 16 alleging that two local journalists telephoned him to demand $300 in exchange for suppressing a story that would have accused him of banning villagers from celebrating the 32nd anniversary of the fall of the Khmer Rouge in a pagoda.
“The victim accused the suspect of extorting money and defamation. We were acting on that complaint with cooperation with the Interior Ministry police to arrest them in Phnom Penh, where they agreed to pick up the bribe,” Mr Lap said.
Kompong Cham provincial prosecutor Hout Vuthy said the court had charged the pair with extortion, but declined to comment further. Provincial governor Hun Neng could not be reached.
Mr Sovann said the information minister’s letter was sent to the governor’s Cabinet, but that the Cabinet office had not delivered it to the governor yet, claiming that intervention was premature.
“The Cabinet official said the information minister’s intervention did not reach the governor. They said we should allow the court to go through the procedures first,” and intervention can follow if a conviction results, Mr Sovann said.