Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Cambodia Daily publisher's defamation trial begins



Cambodia Daily publisher's defamation trial begins

A man reads the Cambodia Daily in Phnom Penh on its last day of publication after the paper was forced to close in 2017 over a massive tax bill. AFP
A man reads the Cambodia Daily in Phnom Penh on its last day of publication after the paper was forced to close in 2017 over a massive tax bill. AFP

Cambodia Daily publisher's defamation trial begins

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Thursday morning opened proceedings in the defamation trial against the deputy publisher of the Cambodia Daily, but deferred the conclusion of the hearing after procedural issues arose.

Deborah Krisher-Steele, deputy publisher of the now-shuttered newspaper, was sued by the Tax Department last September. The department took exception to allegations from Krisher-Steele that it had leaked a confidential tax document to the media and that its audit of the newspaper had been politically motivated.

The Daily stopped publishing after it failed to meet a 30-day deadline to pay a $6.3 million tax bill, with the issue escalating into a public fight between it and the Tax Department, following the leak of a document to government mouthpiece Fresh News.

The trial, which Krisher-Steele did not attend, began with defence lawyer Ham Sunrith saying that his client had not received a summons for the case. But Prosecutor Keo Sokunthea insisted that it had been delivered to the defendant, with Judge Seng Leang siding with the prosecutor and allowing the proceedings to continue.

Tax Department Deputy Director Vann Puthipol, who is the complainant, was represented by his colleague, Heng Narith, who presented a statement on behalf of the department.

He claimed Krisher-Steele spoke to media outlets in late August alleging the Tax Department had leaked the document, breaching confidentiality, and characterising the tax probe as politically motivated. “The Tax Department is a law enforcement institution and follows the regulations, and no documents were leaked by the department. These accusations have affected the reputation of the Tax Department,” Narith said.

On the night of August 4, Fresh News published the leaked tax document, hours after it was posted on former CNRP lawmaker Ou Chanrith’s Facebook page. Chanrith has claimed he did not have control of his Facebook page at the time because it had been hacked.

“The GDT [General Department of Taxation] is not involved in politics. The GDT collects all taxes from all media outlets and individuals who are entitled to pay,” he said.

The court adjourned the hearing until April 12 because Krisher-Steele’s statement, provided by the defence, had not been translated by official translators. Judge Leang gave her lawyers until then to re-submit the statement.

These are not the first procedural issues faced in the case, with Krisher-Steele having lost one of her lawyers, Sek Sophorn, for not having the requisite documents authorising him to legally represent her.

MOST VIEWED

  • Hun Sen says Kingdom not a 'satellite country'

    Prime Minister Hun Sen said Cambodia had sent diplomatic notes to various embassies demonstrating its stance and clarifying allegations that the Kingdom is a satellite country of China which will allow it exclusive access to the Ream Naval Base in Preah Sihanouk province. The response

  • Vast Prince Manor fun park opens to much fanfare in Kandal

    Chinese-owned Prince Culture and Development Co Ltd officially launched the $85 million Prince Manor entertainment centre in Kandal province on Wednesday. Prince Manor is located along National Road 1, 20km from the centre of Phnom Penh. It is the first major theme park project in Cambodia and

  • Angkor provides ‘valuable’ water storage

    The Apsara National Authority (ANA) has stored millions of cubic metres of water at reservoirs in the Angkor area after Cambodia experienced a series of rainstorms over the last few days. The storing of the water, besides serving temple conservation, will also be used to

  • Floods prompt evacuations in Kampong Speu

    Rain-induced floods and water flowing from Kampong Speu province have submerged the houses of 1,527 families living close to the Prek Thnot River in Spean Thma, Tien, Kong Noy and Roluos communes in Phnom Penh’s Dangkor district, according to data from local authorities. Spean Thma

  • Serving coffee with a side of robots

    The eye-catching glass building surrounded by greenery at the intersection of Streets 371 and 2002 in Phnom Penh’s Sen Sok district is more than just another coffee shop where you can while away a few hours. UrHobby House cafe is filled with robots and characters from

  • Cintri strike ends, workers’ contracts to be terminated

    CINTRI (Cambodia) Ltd rubbish collectors who have been on strike for the past 13 days agreed to return to work starting Wednesday evening after the company agreed to terminate their contracts at the end of January next year and provide seniority payments and other benefits to