The Court of Appeal yesterday upheld jailed journalist Ros Sokhet’s conviction for disinformation but reduced his sentence from two years in prison to one, court officials said.
“The Court of Appeal decided to change the Municipal Court conviction from two years in prison to one year,” Judge Pol Sam Oeun said.
Mr Sokhet has been in jail for one year since his arrest in October last year for sending disparaging text messages to television personality Soy Sopheap. Mr Sokhet’s lawyer Sam Sokong said he expected Mr Sokhet to be released as soon as a judge’s order reached Prey Sar prison, where he is incarcerated.
“My client will be released soon because…Ros Sokhet was jailed for one year in total now,” Mr Sokong said, adding that the process usually took one or two days.
It was unclear yesterday whether a letter penned by Information Minister Khieu Kanharith and sent to the Justice Ministry on Oct 14 requesting the journalist’s release had reached the court.
Judge Sam Oeun did not mention the letter as he read out the decision.
“I did not see the letter from the Information Minister yet,” Mr Sokong said. Mr Kanharith did not respond to requests for comment.
Ros Sokhet’s sister, Ros Rada, said she was happy that her brother had been freed but maintained that he should never have been jailed.
“He was not guilty…. I will go to meet him at the prison to welcome him with a family reunion,” Ms Rada said.
Pen Samitthy, president of the Club of Cambodian Journalists, said he was glad Mr Sokhet would soon be free but that the journalist had been incorrectly charged in the first place.
“If I say something wrong to an individual, this is not disinformation, it is libel,” he said. “But it is very difficult because if you accept to be released that means you accept you are guilty.”
“I encourage Ros Sokhet after leaving jail to do any action to make clear that he is innocent.”
(Additional Reporting by Lucy Jordan)