Two journalists were charged by Kampot Provincial Court on Monday evening with extorting money from a deputy governor, while a construction worker who was also arrested in connection with the case was released after questioning, a court official said yesterday.
The reporters were arrested on Friday by the Anti-Corruption Unit, marking the first arrest of journalists by the organisation, which usually targets government officials.
Khai Samphorse, deputy prosecutor at Kampot Provincial Court, said the two journalists – Tol Hok Ly, a stringer for TV 9; and Sor Bun Ly, a stringer for Hang Meas TV – had allegedly demanded $1,000 from a deputy governor.
“After the ACU arrested and questioned them and sent them back to Kampot court, the court charged them with extortion,” Samphorse said.
He added that a third man, construction worker Sok Sovan, had been released after questioning, because he was found to not be connected with the case.
Meas Rithy, a news anchor at Hang Meas, said that he supported the charges against his colleague.
“I support arresting any reporters that do not obey the journalism code,” he said.
In a separate case yesterday, Kampong Chhnang Provincial Court dropped charges against five journalists accused of extorting money from an illegal timber dealer.
The reporters – from Deum Ampil, Apsara TV, Nokorwat and Today Newspaper – stood accused of extorting money from a wood smuggler in 2010.
A sixth suspect passed away earlier this month.
Defence lawyer Kong Pisey celebrated the decision.
“It is the right decision, because the witnesses represented by the prosecutor didn’t answer clearly and didn’t see my clients committing the offences, so the arrest warrants have to be dropped automatically.”