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Journalists accused of extortion

POLICE have questioned four journalists accused of extorting money from supposed illegal loggers operating in Kampong Chhnang province.

Deputy provincial Police Chief Prak Vuthy said yesterday that the men were questioned on Monday following orders from a provincial court prosecutor, who requested that police probe a complaint from  two timber sellers from Teuk Phos district.

“[The men] were accused of stealing money from two people who claimed that they had paid US$600 [in total] to them to not report or publish about their illegal wood carrying activities,” he said.

He claimed the bribes were procured in relation to a November 29 incident in which the two businessmen were allegedly caught transporting logs.

Provincial prosecutor Penh Vibol said a total of eight journalists are currently under investigation for allegedly extorting money from illegal loggers in Teuk Phos district.

“I am now still working hard on these journalists’ cases,”  he said. “I’m not happy because some of these journalists have also used my name and functions to intimidate wood smugglers.”

Penh Vibol said he had no intention of investigating the complainants to discern whether or not they had been engaged in illegal logging.

According to figures provided by the Press Council of Cambodia, at least 10 journalists were arrested and jailed on charges of defamation, extortion and other related crimes in 2010.

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