A JOURNALIST for Cambodia Television Network said yesterday that he had been summoned by the Banteay Meanchey provincial court on suspicion of spreading disinformation for his coverage of a land dispute.
Soush Saroeun, executive managing director of the ARP-OITC Group, which filed the complaint, said CTN’s coverage of the dispute had been unfairly biased against his firm.
“Our lawyer filed a complaint against them because we bought the land from villagers and allowed them to plant rice on our land, but [CTN] looked down on us,” Soush Saroeun said.
The complaint is strange because they did not ask us for a correction, but filed... directly to the court.
Banteay Meanchey provincial prosecutor So Rath said the complaint alleged that CTN’s Lai Ly had affected the “honour” of ARP-OITC with its report on the land dispute in Banteay Meanchey’s Phnom Srok district.
Lai Ly has been ordered to appear at the provincial court on October 11.
Soush Saroeun said the conflict had emerged over 7 hectares of land out of 100 hectares his firm purchased in 2008. The 7 hectares, he said, are also claimed by Lay Saran, the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces deputy commander in Phnom Srok district.
Lay Saran could not be reached for comment. Lai Ly said yesterday that he had yet to receive the summons.
The report in question, which appeared on CTN’s website, was balanced and included comments from all parties concerned, he added.
“I respected the professional code of ethics, so I am not worried,” he said.
CTN news director Huy Vannak said the complaint had failed to make specific allegations about the report.
“The complaint is strange because they did not ask us for a correction, but filed the complaint directly to the court,” he said.
Um Sarin, president of the Cambodian Association for the Protection of Journalists, said that if the court chooses to bring charges against Lai Ly or CTN, it should bring them under the Kingdom’s 1995 Press Law, rather than utilising criminal defamation or disinformation charges.
In a report released last month, Surya Subedi, the United Nations special rapporteur on human rights in Cambodia, recommended that defamation and disinformation be decriminalised.
“The law regarding defamation and disinformation has been used selectively and in a biased manner against journalists, human rights activists and political leaders, and the courts do not seem to interpret the law and the restrictions on freedom of expression according to domestic laws, much less international standards binding Cambodia,” Subedi wrote.