Phnom Penh Municipal Court officials have asked Information Minister Khieu Kanharith to inform reporters of new restrictions on covering the courthouse and a ban on visiting staff offices.
The request was made in an Oct 28 letter from Municipal Court Director Chiv Keng and Chief Prosecutor Ouk Savouth to the minister, and was faxed to media outlets on Friday evening.
Journalists will no longer be allowed to cover civil suits involving paternity, marriage, divorce or child custody cases, or any cases involving youths under the age of 18, rape cases or cases still under investigation, the officials wrote in the letter.
The officials also reiterated that cameras and tape recorders are no longer permitted in the court compound, and reporters are barred from visiting the offices of prosecutors, judges and court clerks.
Reporters have created havoc in the court, scared clients and affected the privacy, reputation and dignity of people at the courthouse, the court officials claimed.
“If [reporters] still don’t respect the law, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court will take measures in accordance with the UNTAC criminal law and Article 10 of the press law,” the letter stated.
Article 10 covers retractions, corrections and libel against public figures, and carries fines of one to five million riel (about $250 to $1,250).
Chiv Keng refused to comment and hung up on a reporter Sunday.
Khieu Kanharith, who is also the government’s spokesman, stood by the court’s order.
“It is a standard,” he said. “The whole world does it like this. Previously, the old court [director] was forgiving. Any country can also do like this.”
So Mosseny, a court monitor with the Center for Social Development, said while there are sensitive cases at the court, reporters should still be allowed to do their jobs.
“[Court officials] should not prohibit all reporters from working at the court,” he said. “The UNTAC law says the hearings are in public.”