T HE jailed editor of the Morning News, Ngoun Noun has vowed to restart the
publication of his newspaper on his release.
The editor was jailed on
July 9 after Morning News ran a series of stories from July 4-8 naming and
displaying photographs of top CPP officials allegedly involved in the failed
Noun's case was brought to trial at the Phnom Penh Municipal
Court on July 16.
In an interview with the Post at the court, moments
before Noun's trial was postponed and he was returned to PJ Prison, Noun said:
"I want to continue publishing my newspaper.
"[Co-prime minister] Hun Sen
and [National Assembly President] Chea Sim don't have democracy in their hearts
like I do. I did not make up my stories, I have sources, but it is a
journalist's right not to reveal his sources."
When asked his opinion of
newspapers Koh Santipheap and Reasmey Kampuchea, which instead of defending
their jailed colleague criticized and mocked him, Noun said: "This is good. It
is their right to criticize me. I would encourage it."
Noun was charged
under Articles 28 and 29 of the SOC press law with inciting to affect the good
order of society, slander, and infringing upon the reputation of high
On July 8 Noun wrote letters of apology to Hun Sen and Chea
Sim where he asked for forgiveness and said he was at fault for writing articles
affecting their high credibility.
At Noun's trial on July 16 the sole
argument presented by the Crown Prosecutor was that the letters Noun wrote were
a confession of guilt to the charges.
But Noun clarified the meaning of
the letters in the interview with the Post. He said: "I merely wrote those
letters to apologize for harming their reputations, I was not saying my articles
Noun also said he had not been pressured into writing the
After an interview with Noun in PJ, a human rights advocate
said he strongly suspected Noun made up a certain amount of the material in the
stories. He added: "Noun just has a habit of writing whatever rumors he
But another human rights worker said he believed that other
newspapers had run similar stories but Noun had been singled out by the CPP for
political reasons. Noun used to work as a secretary for Funcinpec leader Prince
During the hearing Noun's legal defender Nou
Tepirith, argued that even if the editor was misled by his sources he should be
forgiven just as the 300 soldiers who took part in the coup were forgiven after
being misled by their officers into thinking they were going to Phnom Penh to
fight the Khmer Rouge.
Tepirith, chairman of the legal training group
Charto said: "Why arrest someone who is merely the messenger [relaying the story
about the coup] when those who took part have been forgiven?"
He said the
Royal Govern-ment's arrest of Noun made it appear harsher than the SOC regime
which never arrested journalists. He said Noun's articles had not caused any
instability, and no modern democracy arrests journalists for such
Tepirith told the court: "King Sihanouk issued a decree saying
journalists who criticized him should not be put in jail, we should apply this
decree to others. Everybody says we should follow the King who says Cambodia is
a modern democracy."
Tepirith also said he did not have sufficient time
to prepare the case and so he wished for a postponement. But he failed to argue
that if the case was postponed Noun should be granted bail.
prosecutor argued his case for less than five minutes while the defender pleaded
for over an hour leading some court observers to comment that it seemed like
Noun was presumed guilty and had to prove his innocence at the trial.
a briefly delivered decision Judge Thong Ol said: "The defender has convinced us
to postpone the trial."
Amnesty International reported on July 18 that
Judge Ol made the decision after receiving a message from the prosecutor.
Amnesty linked the message to a phone call the prosecutor received at the court
while the defender was speaking.
Human rights advocates worldwide,
including special UN representative Justice Michael Kirby, have condemned the
continued incarceration of Noun saying it is an inappropriate punishment even if
Noun has broken the law.
A legal expert said: "Tepirith gave a spirited
performance but was poorly advised [by expats] to ask for a postponement and not
link it to the granting of bail.
"This played into the government's
hands. Tepirith should have pushed for a decision then and there. With all the
international attention the case has drawn there is no way the judge would have
sentenced Noun to jail."
Noun's case will be retried at the Phnom Penh
Municipal Court on Charles De Gaulle Boulevard at 7:30 am on Aug 3.
with a black sense of humor at two NGOs are running books on the retrial outcome
and they report the odds have considerably narrowed in favor of Noun's