T HE Appeal Court has upheld a one year jail sentence and a five million riel ($2,000) fine against Hen Vipheak, a former journalist-turned-politician, for disinformation.
Appeal Court judge Ouk Savuth upheld Vipheak's earlier conviction for disinformation but overturned a second conviction for defamation of the Prime Ministers. He made no change to the original sentence.
The judge, though discarding the defamation conviction, ruled that Vipheak was guilty of publishing "fabricated and false information with intention to harm the honor of the Prime Ministers."
Vipheak is the former editor of Sereipheap Thmei (New Liberty News) - whose offices were recently attacked by Kraingyov villagers - and who resigned to become a steering committee member of Sam Rainsy's Khmer Nation Party. He had appealed against his convictions under the UNTAC criminal law by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court in May, in relation to an article headlined: "Cambodia: Country of Thieves."
At the Dec 22 appeal hearing, Judge Savuth dismissed Vipheak's request for a pardon if he promised to write an apology to the Prime Ministers.
During the hearing, Vipheak acted emotionally and, as one observer put it, was "childish".
He argued with Prosecutor Kong Srim but did not provide any evidence to support the article's contents.
He avoided editorial responsibility for the article, which was bylined Toyota, by saying he had only conveyed the opinion of its unidentified writer. When pressed by Kong Srim to prove the article's allegations that both prime ministers were selling off state property, Vipheak challenged the prosecutor: "Let's bid your life and my life on this, everyone knows about this [sale of state property]".
Asked by the prosecutor to behave properly, he responded: "This is my right". He calmed down only after he received a warning from the judge.
After Judge Savuth gave his ruling, Vipheak said the verdict had been "not independent" and he would further appeal his case to the Supreme Court.
Vipheak's original sentence in May raised concern from the King and journalism and human rights NGOs.