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Watchdog criticises jailing of Ros Sokhet

THE International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has criticised the recent jailing of freelance journalist Ros Sokhet, saying his offence did not warrant criminal charges.

Last Friday, Phnom Penh Municipal Court Judge Chhay Kong sentenced Ros Sokhet, 40, to two years in prison after convicting him of spreading disinformation by sending disparaging text messages to Soy Sopheap, a well-known CTN anchor.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, the IFJ slammed the court for applying the “outdated” UNTAC Penal Code rather than the Kingdom’s more liberal 1995 Press Law.

“There are appropriate civil laws in place to resolve media-related complaints, and Cambodia’s Press Law should be applied to assist in their resolution,” IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park was quoted as saying.

The IFJ, which represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries, added that it stands “in solidarity” with Ros Sokhet and called on the government to ensure media complaints are dealt with under civil law.

Chhay Kong said he did not have time to comment Thursday, but during last Friday’s hearing, court deputy prosecutor Sok Roeun dismissed the argument of Ros Sokhet’s defence lawyer that the case should have been prosecuted under the Press Law.

“The law requires me to accuse the suspect of whatever charge, and the judge will decide in a hearing. The prosecutor always stands behind the plaintiff,” he said.

When contacted on Thursday, Ros Sokhet’s sister Ros Keaveak said she planned to file an appeal against the court’s conviction next week.

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