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Reporter sues district chief

A PHNOM Penh court on Monday issued a summons to a Kandal province district chief to answer on Friday accusations of disinformation brought by a local journalist - the first such case involving a suit brought by the media against a government official, the court said.

Sar Rith, a reporter with the Khmer-language daily Rasmey Kampuchea, filed a complaint with the court on Friday following an appearance by Kandal Stung district Chief Chhim Sambath on a Phnom Penh radio programme on August 22.

During the programme, which addressed government investigations of illegal sand-dredging operations, Chhim Sambath disclosed details of a private legal dispute involving Sar Rith's father-in-law, who lives in Kandal Stung district.

"He talked about sand-dredging but inserted my private problem in the interview, which I consider to adversely affect my profession as a journalist," Sar Rith said. "I have to sue him for disinformation."

Landmark case
Hieng Sopheak, deputy prosecutor for Phnom Penh Municipal Court, said Tuesday that Chhim Sambath's summons was the first of its kind.

"This is the first such instance where a journalist has sued a government official for disinformation," he said.

Sar Rith said the radio comments followed an article his newspaper ran about illegal sand-dredging in Kandal Stung district.

Chhim Sambath could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Chan Soveth, a monitor for the Cambodian rights group Adhoc, said the suit was a good sign that private citizens still had the courage to confront the government, but added that he could not be certain that Sar Rith would receive justice in the case.

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