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Editor fined for defamation

Editor fined for defamation

Phnom Penh Municipal Court has convicted the Cambodia Daily Editor-in-Chief, Matt

Reed, of publishing inaccurate and defamatory information, imposed total costs of

15 million riel ($3,750), and ordered publication of a correction.

The charge arose from an article written by Editor at Large Kevin Doyle, published

on November 15, 2003, which stated that Svay Sitha, an under-secretary of state to

the Council of Ministers, was "a former advisor to Prime Minister Hun Sen".

Sitha objected to this statement and on January 6 he filed a complaint to the court,

and demanded 20 million riel compensation.

The article concerned the consequences of an acid attack on Tat Marina, then allegedly

the mistress of Svay Sitha. It stated that Sitha's wife was the chief suspect.

On April 8, the presiding judge, Ya Sokhan, ordered Reed to pay 10 million riel compensation

to Sitha, 5 million riel to the state budget, and publish a correction.

The Post has obtained a copy of a letter written to the court on February 6 by Khun

Chinkan, deputy secretary general of the Council of Ministers, which states that

Svay Sitha has never had the position as an advisor to Hun Sen.

Pal Chandara, an official at the Council of Ministers who represented Sitha's case,

said: "The publishing of this inaccurate information impacted on his [Svay Sitha's]

work and honor."

He said Reed did not answer the questions put by the presiding judge during the hearing

when asked about his personal background.

A court clerk who declined to be named said prosecutor Yet Chakriya invited Reed

four times to give evidence but he refused to say anything, not even give his residential

address.

When contacted about the court judgement on April 21, Reed said: "No comment."

Chandara said both Sitha and Reed have two months to lodge appeals.

Pen Samitthy, President of the Club of Cambodian Journalists, said: "There is

always potential for errors when writing newspaper articles , but they can usually

be remedied by publishing corrections."

He said the subject of the Sitha complaint was a small issue that could easily have

been corrected if both parties had discussed the matter .

Note: Article 10 of the Cambodia Law on the Press (unofficial translation, published

by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights] states that any person who believes

an article or text is false and harms his/her honor or dignity, "has the right

to demand a retraction from or the right to reply to the publisher of the statement

and the right to sue on the charge of defamation, libel or humiliation. A retraction

or reply shall be published within seven days or the next issue."

The court may impose a fine of 1 million to 5 million riel.

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