Law Obstructs News Reporting: Journalists

Though Prime Minister Hun Sen has removed prison as a punishment from the much exercised defamation law, journalists and others are now being targeted with the more oppressive disinformation law, the Cambodian Club of Journalists said Thursday.

CCJ President Pen Samithi told some 40 journalists who attended the roundtable discussion that lengthy prison sentences still hang over journalists due to the newfound popularity of disinformation charges.

Addressing the roundtable, Sok Sam Oeun, executive director of the Cambodian Defenders Project, said that only Hun Sen could do something about the situation.

While laws such as disinformation may look good on paper, due to the non-independence of the country’s courts, judgments are not neutral and it is the weak who suffer, Sok Sam Oeun said.

“The rich are not put in prison even though they have problems in court,” he said.

Journalists and others accused of disinformation could spend from six months to three years in prison if convicted.

The most recent victim of the disinformation law, university lecturer Tieng Narith, has been denied bail, Cambodian Defenders Project lawyer Hong Kimsuon said by telephone Thursday.

Tieng Narith was arrested and jailed last month after being fired from the Sihanouk Raja Buddhist University when it was discovered he was preaching a strong anti-CPP message to his pupils.

The 30-year-old, whose parents  claim is mentally ill, had produced a textbook containing some of his more salacious allegations against top CPP officials.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court Investigating Judge Sao Meach said Tieng Narith was denied bail because he had not yet finished his investigation.

Government doctors who examined the lecturer’s mental state said their examinations could take six months. A Western doctor in Phnom Penh said it should take only a few days to determine if someone is psychologically ill or not.


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