The director of a radio station accused of “incitement and public defamation” for reporting on a land dispute protest in April was released from the Kampong Chhnang provincial court without charge on Tuesday.
“The court released me to get documents to see the lawsuit dropped. I will be summoned to return next month. My lawyer and I will compile the necessary documentation,” Sok Oddom said after two hours of questioning by the deputy court prosecutor on Tuesday.
Oddom, the director of Rithy Sen radio station, was summoned to appear in court on April 3 for questioning after a complaint was filed by Lun Lorn, a supervisor at a company owned by local tycoon Sok Bun.
Oddom told The Post on Tuesday that he had personally covered the protest and recorded live video footage. He said villagers had told him that Bun’s private company had grabbed land belonging to 30 families and cleared 2,000ha of flooded forest belonging to the state.
“Oknha Sok Bun’s company is trying to rob people of their land without giving them suitable compensation,” Oddom reported at the time.
Lorn filed a complaint with the court following Oddom’s reporting of the protest on April 1 at Svay Chrum district’s Rolea Ba’ier commune in Kampong Chhnang province.
Provincial court spokesman Chhuon Sivin told The Post on Tuesday that provincial deputy prosecutor Long Sitha had questioned Oddom over the accusation that he had incited villagers to confront the company and had publicly defamed it.
Choeung Vannak, deputy director of the Kampong Chhnang provincial Information Department, said he had followed the case in court and found there had been no threats of arrest or intimidation made against Sok Oddom. After questioning, the court allowed him to go home.
“He is being sued for his reporting about the land dispute in Rolea Ba’ier district. The court only questioned him and there is nothing he should be worried about,” Vannak said.
Local media reported that Lorn had filed a complaint demanding $50,000 in compensation or the arrest of Oddom and a public apology.
Contact details for Lorn could not be found for comment.
Sam Chankea, Kampong Chhnang and Pursat provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, told The Post on Tuesday that the court action was a violation of professional journalistic practice.
“Before filing a complaint with the court, the plaintiff should have asked the radio station for a correction. If he still considered the reports inaccurate, he should have explained his side of events.
“He should not have sued a journalist at the provincial court because he was only reporting the news,” Chankea said.
Villagers in Svay Chrum commune are locked in a land dispute with the local land dispute committee addressing the issue, he added.