A human rights worker was scheduled to be questioned by Takeo Provincial Court on Monday over allegations of disinformation arising from radio broadcasts that accused a local Cham imam of corruption.
The lawsuit is one of at least 10 ongoing legal actions for defamation and disinformation that also involve plaintiffs such as the prime minister, opposition lawmakers, journalists and now a human rights worker, according to the Cambodian Center for Human Rights.
Takeo province Deputy Prosecutor Say Nara said June 5 that he will question Cheap Chiev, a CCHR activist in Takeo province, over assertions he is said to have made in Radio Free Asia news broadcasts in February and March that accused Riem Math, imam of a mosque in Borei Cholsar’s Kok Po commune, of misusing funds donated to improve his mosque.
In an April lawsuit, Riem Math accused the broadcaster RF and Cheap Chiev of disinformation, a criminal offense carrying penalties of 6 months to three years in prison, a fine of $75 to $750, or both, according to Mr Nara.
The imam’s lawsuit also names two local representatives of the Muslim community who were interviewed for the RFA broadcasts. The Imam accuses the two of clearing a plot within a graveyard.
Kok Po commune chief Thuy Tim denied June 5 that the land in question had ever been used for burial and said he was preparing a countersuit against Riem Math over the land, which he said was in fact part of a village chief’s offices but has been improperly sold.
Riem Math could not be reached for comment despite repeated attempts on June 5.
Mr Nara said the human rights worker, Cheap Chiev, was scheduled to be questioned on Monday and that two RFA reporters who filed the reports will be questioned at a later date.
“I will also invite the RFA reporters to respond over the disinformation allegations very soon, too,” he said.
RFA reporters To Serey and Tin Zakariya both declined to comment on June 5.
CCHR Project Coordinator Chhim Savuth said June 5 that courts have repeatedly used the UNTAC-era transitional penal code to pursue alleged wrongdoing by the news media rather than the 1995 Law on the Press.
“We are really concerned that freedom of expression is under pressure from the legal system,” he said.
Mr Nara said June 5 that it was unclear whether the court would apply the penal code or the press law in the current case.