Reporter Detained for Allegedly Inciting Villagers Facing Eviction

A reporter for local television station MSJ TV was briefly de­tained and questioned by police on Saturday for allegedly inciting residents who are facing eviction from their riverside homes in Kom­pong Chhnang City, a journalist and officials said on Sunday.

Ngunly Theara, a news reader for MSJ TV, said he went to Phsar Krom village on Saturday mor­­ning to interview residents along with the station’s CEO, Meng Sophorn, and provincial cor­­­­­­­­­­respondents Sann Bora and Say Sanya.

“When the residents saw we had come to interview them, more residents came to ral­ly …they appealed to us to broadcast their concerns,” he said, adding that he was not at the scene when commune police ap­prehended his colleague, Mr. Bora, at about 3:30 p.m.

Sun Sovannarith, the deputy Kompong Chhnang provincial governor in charge of the capital’s five-year development plan, which calls for the relocation of more than 1,500 families, said that a total of 225 families were facing eviction from the riverside area.

He said that Mr. Bora had been detained by authorities for inciting the villagers to unite against the development plan.

“Many local and foreign re­porters have come to interview the residents who live in floating houses, but they do not act like [Mr. Bora],” Mr. Sovannarith said in explaining why it was necessary for police to bring him in for questioning.

“In general, we are open-minded and our officials do not discriminate against the media,” he added.

Rin Ratha, chief of police in Phsar Chhnang commune, where the reporter was detained, said provincial governor Chhuor Chandoeun ordered officials to question the reporter because he had been collecting thumbprints from the villagers and promising to help them with their dispute.

“We detained him because he came to collect thumbprints of the residents,” he said. “He is a reporter, how can he do that? He also promised to solve their concerns over authorities’ development plan.”

Mr. Ratha said police held Mr. Bora for half an hour before a deputy provincial governor or­dered his release.

Mr. Bora could not be reached for comment. Mr. Theara, his colleague, said the crew had only promised to broadcast the con­cerns of the villagers, but added that the rest of the crew had left Mr. Bora with the villagers before police arrived.

The reporter’s detention comes after a journalist for TV9 was arrested earlier this month in Mon­­­dolkiri province following a report alleging that the provincial military police commander had taken bribes to allow illegal logging inside a conservation area.

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