COURT officials in Phnom Penh have taken the unusual step of criticising recent media reports alleging “irregularities” in the convictions of three men accused of armed robberies last week.
A statement issued Monday and signed by Yet Chakrya, the chief prosecutor at Phnom Penh Municipal Court, alleged that Radio Free Asia (RFA) had broadcast “exaggerated information” involving three men convicted of committing a series of armed robberies.
The statement defended the conviction of the men, each of whom was sentenced last week to 30 years in prison. The men were involved in multiple robberies, the statement read – crimes that caused people to lose property and had a negative impact on public security.
The RFA reports, which aired last Wednesday and Monday, relied on interviews with people who lacked sufficient information to criticise the judicial system and police officials, the court suggested in the statement. The reports amounted to a lack of journalistic professionalism, the statement said.
RFA reporter Kim Pov said she met with the Council of Ministers to discuss her reporting.
“I told them that I have no intention of defending robbers or thieves, but I just wanted to broadcast information based on a report I got from a human rights organisation,” Kim Pov said.
The report, she said, suggested there were irregularities in the convictions.
Kim Pov said the court declined to comment when she first asked for access to the case files.
Chan Soveth, a senior investigator with rights group Adhoc, confirmed that it was his organisation that publicised the issue after receiving complaints from the three convicted men.
They “told us that they have been convicted and sentenced unjustly. We haven’t conducted a thorough investigation”, said Chan Soveth, who urged the court to provide evidence of the three men’s alleged crimes.
Sok Sam Oeun, executive director of the Cambodian Defenders Project, said the court overreacted by criticising the RFA journalist’s reporting, and that the prisoners were merely expressing their opinions through the media.