O udamkati Khmer (Khmer Ideal) newspaper editor Thun Bunly, facing a ten million
riel fine or two years in prison, has vowed to fight the sentence to the bitter
Bunly, convicted of disinformation and defamation, also had his
paper ordered permanently closed.
But he has won a temporary reprieve
from the court, after the Ministry of Information had insisted on his
newspaper's presses remaining idle, until his appeal of the sentence is
Bunly's trial was resumed on Aug 28, after being adjourned several
weeks ago because of rowdiness in the courtroom, under the eye of armed,
He had been charged with disinformation under Article 62
of the UNTAC criminal code.
However, in his closing argument, prosecutor
Yet Chariya asked Judge Oum Sarith to add a charge of defamation under Article
63 as well.
Bunly's defender, Ang Eng Thong, protested the late addition
of the charge, saying justice demanded that advance warning of new charges be
Judge Sarith convicted Bunly of both disinformation and defamation,
sentencing him to pay ten million riels or spend two years in jail.
judge also ordered the newspaper closed under the State of Cambodia press law -
a law Bunly was not charged under.
Bunly, speaking several days after
being sentenced, pledged not to pay the fine or go to jail. He said he would
appeal to the Appeals Court and, if that didn't work, to the supreme
He complained that the Ministry of Information had warned the
private printing house which printed his newspaper to stop doing so, even though
he had two months in which to appeal the court's decision.
His paper was
later re-opened after he persistently requested Judge Sarith to give permission
for publication to continue until his appeal was heard.
that his sentence was unjust because the articles in question - which, among
other things, accused the government of being a dictatorship - were a legal
expression of his opinion.
Khmer Journalists Association president Pin
Samkhon protested Bun Ly's sentence as the latest in a series of disturbing
prosecutions of journalists.
"Those actions threaten the freedom of the
press as guaranteed by constitution of Cambodia."
He said he was
concerned that the procedures used by the courts violated people's right to fair
"In the case of Khmer Ideal, one new charge was added during the
course of the trial and the accused editor was given no time to prepare a
defense against the charge. The prosecution presented no evidence to prove its
case but instead invited Bunly to prove that he was innocent."
assumption of guilt violates article 38 of the constitution, which guarantees
that an accused shall be considered innocent until proven
Samkhon also described the order to shut down Khmer Ideal as
"illegal" because it was permitted by the UNTAC law he was charged under.