Phnom Penh Court Sues Newspaper, Editor Says

The publisher of a pro-SRP newspaper said Thursday that he would testify in Phnom Penh Municipal Court in what he claim­ed was legal action taken against him by the court’s director for disinformation and for insults.

Thursday’s edition of the Sralanh Khmer newspaper printed a facsimile of what appears to be a summons in the case.

“I, Ouk Savouth, chief prosecutor of the Phnom Penh court, invite Thach Keth…to come to court on Feb 6, 2007, at 8:30 am to answer about disinformation and insults as per Mr Chiv Keng’s complaints,” the document reads.

Ouk Savouth could not be reach­ed Thursday while Chiv Keng said he was too busy to speak to a reporter.

Unlike the crime of defamation, for which prison sentences were dropped in May, the crime of disinformation carries prison sentences of between six months and three years under the Untac Law.

Thach Keth said he was unsure which articles could have caused offense but that in January he had written two that were critical of the court.

In the first, he had referred to an article in another Phnom Penh newspaper in which villagers had complained of corruption at the court, he said.

In the second, he had cited an unnamed judge as saying the court and municipal police were at odds over the release of three reporters charged last month with extorting money from an actress.

Information Minister and government spokesman Khieu Kan­harith said the court had the right to sue journalists, regardless of political affiliation.

“The prime minister doesn’t want any journalist to be detained but don’t forget that the law exists too.”

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