Reporters Robbed, Shot at While Covering Crash

A group of journalists who rushed to the scene of a car crash in Phnom Penh’s Daun Penh district early Monday morning said they were attacked and shot at by the people involved in the accident, who also stole their video cameras and smartphones.

Srah Chak commune police chief Kan Vannak said a Honda SUV crashed into three other cars near Wat Phnom shortly before 1 a.m. Reporters from television stations Hang Meas, TV3 and CTN, along with a journalist from the CEN news website, arrived soon after the accident.

“The group of journalists came to get information about the traffic accident near Wat Phnom and got in a fight with the drivers, who prevented them from taking photos,” Mr. Vannak said.

“One man drove into three other cars, but I’m not sure about the whole thing because I wasn’t at the scene at that time,” he said. “I don’t want to say anything more about that case.”

Ngov Dina, a cameraman for Hang Meas TV who went to cover the accident, said the reporters were treated with hostility from the moment they arrived at the scene, where about 10 people involved in the crash were gathered.

“The owners of the cars didn’t want us taking photos, so we told them we would only take photos of the cars and not their faces,” he said. “But after we finished taking photos, they prevented us from leaving and tried to grab our cameras and delete our photos.”

Mr. Dina said that he told the group that he needed permission from his editors before deleting anything from his camera, but soon had his equipment ripped from his hands.

“After they grabbed our cameras and smartphones, we tried to run to follow them to take our property back,” he said. “Immediately, one man shot at us three times. Fortunately no one…was injured.”

Mr. Dina said police detained one man in the group, but that he was not sure whether the man was the shooter.

Mr. Vannak, the commune police chief, confirmed that his officers apprehended a man for questioning but declined to give his name. He also refused to say what happened to those who fled the scene with the journalists’ equipment or the vehicles they left behind.

Mr. Dina said the journalists filed a complaint with the commune police within an hour after the attack. “We don’t want to confront them but we just demanded compensation for our missing cameras,” he said.

The Club of Cambodian Journalists on Monday issued a statement about the attack, saying the incident had raised “concerns related to freedom and security of journalists.”

“The Club of Cambodian Journalists has received information that four journalists…suffered threats and serious verbal harassment and gunshots from a group,” the statement said. It called on authorities to investigate the shooting and take legal action against anyone found to have committed violence toward the journalists.

Eng Sorphea, head of the municipal serious crimes bureau, however, said the shooting was a minor case that could be dealt with at the commune level.

“It’s a minor case, so we will let the commune or district [investigate] first,” he said. “If the lower officials cannot do it, those people can file a complaint to the court and the court will inform us and we will do it.”

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