Mam Sonando Should Not Use Lawsuit to Defend Reputation

As an advocate for press freedom and freedom of expression, I am very disturbed by the ongoing defamation lawsuit brought by Beehive Radio director Mam Sonando against activist monk But Buntenh—“Radio Host Sues Dissident Monk for Defamation” (September 7).


Of course, I agree that the radio director needs to do something if he feels that his dignity and reputation have been “damaged” by false information or accusations.

However, a public figure like Mr. Sonando has other more democratic means to seek redress for his grievances by issuing a statement or holding a press conference to clarify any false claims.

As a former victim of restrictions on freedom of speech—having twice been imprisoned due to similar accusations by the government—the radio director should have become a champion and defender of freedom of expression.

Mr. Sonando and other public officials who intend to sue anyone for defamation should take the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk as a role model in nurturing the culture of tolerance in the spirit of democracy.

It should be recalled that in December 1994, the King Father urged the government not to enact a press law that mandated criminal penalties for a variety of offenses, including insulting the crown.

“As far as I am concerned, I declare once again that no journalists be punished or hauled before the court because of me, because of their attacks (be they unjust or slanderous) against me,” the King Father was quoted as saying in a statement read by Sieng Lapresse, then the spokesman for the Information Ministry.

Moeun Chhean Nariddh
Director, Cambodia Institute for Media Studies

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