The Club of Cambodian Journalists (CCJ) released a statement on Friday expressing concern over three recent cases of reporters facing harassment while attempting to document illegal logging in Preah Vihear, Pursat and Kompong Cham provinces.
Sorn Mongkul, a reporter for Kampuchea Thmey newspaper based in Preah Vihear province, was allegedly beaten by military police on April 12 after trying to photograph a vehicle suspected of illegally carrying luxury timber.
Hin Samon, a reporter for TV9, was briefly detained by police in Pursat province on April 11 after being accused of attempted extortion after he took photographs of a truck transporting luxury logs.
In Kompong Cham province on April 10, Sem Bona, who says he is a reporter for the little-known Chhantak Khmer newspaper, was beaten by two unknown assailants while covering illegal logging, according to the CCJ statement.
“The Club of Cambodian Journalists notes that the security of journalists working in the field has been threatened,” the statement says.
The CCJ “condemns this activity and appeals to all legal organizations involved to take measures against the assailants and find justice for journalists,” it continues.
Extortionists posing as journalists have made a cottage industry out of documenting illegal logging and blackmailing companies into paying to keep the story out of the press.
Mr. Mongkul of Kampuchea Thmey is the only journalist of the three who has officially filed a complaint with the courts.
Si Nann, a Preah Vihear provincial court clerk, confirmed that Mr. Mongkul’s complaint had reached the court, and said that the involved parties would be summoned for questioning this week.
Mr. Mongkul claims that Lay Sopheap, the deputy provincial military police commander, and Kong Thearith, his assistant, physically assaulted him after he demanded to photograph the interior of a truck that had been stopped at a police checkpoint.
Mr. Mongkul’s lawsuit accuses the men of punching him in the face and then kicking him in the chest and stomach after he had fallen to the ground.
“I sent my lawsuit to court and demand $10,000 as the compensation and request that the court tries them by the rule of law,” Mr. Mongkul said Sunday.
Military police have denied the claims, saying that they were only defending themselves after Mr. Mongkul attacked them during a dispute over whether he could photograph the truck.
“Police did not attack him, and my police officials will be punished if I find that they have broken the law,” said Kang Saokun, the provincial military police commander.