Journalists entered the homes of villagers in Ratanakkiri province suspected of illegal logging, threatening to put them in handcuffs if they didn’t open their doors and show their timber stock, the Information Ministry said in a statement released on Monday after a brief investigation.
A spokesman for the ministry, however, said that it would not pursue any legal action and instead allow the provincial court to decide how to proceed with a complaint filed by the victimized residents.
The statement also said the ministry found no evidence supporting the journalists’ claim that villagers of Ratanakkiri’s Veun Sai district attempted to kill six local reporters in their dispute over illegal logging.
“We did not find any reason to conclude that the villagers attempted to kill those journalists like the accusations,” the statement said.
The ministry began investigating after the reporters claimed their Toyota Camry was smashed earlier this month by angry residents of Koh Peak commune, who they said sprung upon them at the end of a reporting trip.
Representatives of the ministry said at the time that locals engaged in small-scale timber businesses had, in turn, accused the reporters of going from house to house in the commune demanding money to not report their logging activities.
In its statement released on Monday siding with the villagers, the ministry said it “wishes to call journalists to respect the policies of professional media.”
It adds that it found about 10 pieces of wood being kept at locals’ houses.
Sok Sovan, one of the six journalists who filed the complaint, said the ministry’s investigation had been unfair as it “only collected information from the police.”
“We did not check people’s houses like the Information Ministry published in their report, and their explanation is not true,” he said.
“I think the Information Ministry officials don’t have enough experience to carry out this investigation because they did not collect information from our group of journalists.”
Information Ministry spokesman Ouk Kimseng, however, said the investigation had been thorough and the results were neutral.
“We did not collect information from the police’s side only. Our team went to the area and we asked the six journalists to show us their evidence, but they didn’t have it,” he said, adding that it would be up to the provincial court to decide if legal action was warranted.