Photographers Barred From Entering the Phnom Penh Court

Photographers and video camera operators have been barred from entering the Phnom Penh Municipal Court compound in a move that one official said was intended to stop journalists from leveling unfair accusations at the institution.

The new policy, which technically came into effect on Monday, also requires reporters to apply for permission to enter the premises from the court’s administrative department and forbids them from loitering inside the gates of the courthouse.

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
The Phnom Penh Municipal Court (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

Ly Sophanna, a spokesman for the court’s prosecutors, said the new rules were primarily introduced to improve security—in line with international standards—but would also serve to curtail misleading reporting.

“We are doing this now because we want to strengthen the security in the court,” Mr. Sophanna said. “The courts in Europe do not allow media to go inside, either.”

“With these rules, we also want to make sure to avoid the media publishing news without getting detailed information from the court that will affect the court through accusations and distortions,” he said.

Applications for permission to enter the courthouse can be submitted on the day of the proceeding and will be dealt with promptly, he added.

Pen Bonnar, president of the Club of Cambodian Journalists, said he supported the new policy, provided it was implemented fairly.

“If some reporters can get inside and some cannot get inside, it’s discrimination,” he said.

But even before the policy came into effect, admission to the courthouse has been granted inconsistently. In recent weeks, reporters have been completely barred from proceedings related to deputy opposition leader Kem Sokha’s alleged tryst with a mistress but allowed to attend other hearings.

If enforced, the new rules will largely prevent media outlets from taking photographs or capturing footage of suspects and plaintiffs entering and exiting the courthouse. With this lack of access in mind, Mr. Bonnar urged the court to construct a facility that would allow court officials and other parties to proceedings to speak to the media.

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