A journalist from state news agency Agence Kampuchea-Presse (AKP) was arrested on Tuesday evening in Preah Vihear town after the owners of several local shops that make and sell wooden furniture and handicrafts accused him of extortion, provincial police officials said.
Khat Hun, the director of the provincial penal police office, said AKP journalist Tith Ro, 43, was charged with extortion yesterday and that authorities were also seeking to arrest an Apsara TV reporter named Chhoeun Chan in connection with the case. Hun said Chan had fled.
AKP director Sok Mom Nimol declined to comment on Ro’s arrest until the agency had investigated the case. Apsara TV denied its reporter had been involved in extortion and said he had not fled but was instead taking care of his sick wife.
Apsara TV head of news Nop Channarin also claimed that Chan had been falsely implicated by Ro.
According to police, a number of villagers have come forward to accuse Ro and other local journalists of extortion after hearing about his arrest.
“This is not the first time that these journalists have extorted from the villagers. Sometimes, they demanded 500,000 riel [about $125] and sometimes 1 million riel, or they threatened to take wooden tables or chairs instead of money,” Hun said.
“More villagers will come and file complaints to us . . . the journalists have to respect their ethics and not do that anymore.”
Toun Oun, 49, a shop owner in Preah Vihear town, claimed yesterday that a group of six journalists had tried to extort her on Monday.
“[They] took a lot of pictures of my products and then they asked for about 200,000 riel. I told them that I did not have the money and I could only give them 150,000 riel,” she said.
Oun said she saw press cards from Apsara TV, Channel 9, and others.
“They demanded [to take] wooden chairs, but I did not agree. They told me that if I did not agree with them, they will broadcast bad news about my shop,” she said.
Pheng Noeun, 53, another shop owner, said that the journalists had threatened to report that his business was illegal if he didn’t pay them.
Lor Chan, a monitor with rights group Adhoc, said Ro had denied the allegations when he met him in court.
Police have said they will continue to investigate the other journalists allegedly involved in the case.