EMBATTLED newspaper publisher Hang Chakra has vowed to continue printing hard-hitting stories critical of government officials after his recent release from Prey Sar prison, where he had been serving a one-year sentence for disinformation .
The editor and publisher of the Sam Rainsy Party-aligned Khmer Machas Srok newspaper was released from prison on Tuesday after receiving a Royal pardon.
“It is unbelievable that I could be free one day before the Khmer New Year, and I am very happy to reunite with my family,” Hang Chakra said Sunday.
I WILL CONTINUE TO ... PUBLISH A NEWSPAPER CRITICISING CORRUPT ... OFFICIALS.
Hang Chakra was imprisoned in June of last year after his newspaper published a series of stories alleging rampant corruption on the part of high-ranking officials in Deputy Prime Minister Sok An’s cabinet.
After being convicted and fined 9 million riels ($2,500), Hang Chakra wrote to Prime Minister Hun Sen on July 8 to apologise and pledged not to report on corruption in the future, stating that he had “repeatedly failed to act properly and seriously” while at the helm of the newspaper.
Hang Chakra also wrote a letter of apology to Sok An in September.
However, Hang Chakra said that next week he would again start publishing Khmer Machas Srok, which was forced to suspend publishing earlier this month due to financial reasons.
He denied speculation that he had defected to the ruling Cambodian People’s Party.
“I will continue to ... publish a newspaper criticising corrupt individual government officials in order to serve my readers and society,” he said.
Pov Buntheoun, director of the Criminal Department at the Justice Ministry, said Hang Chakra was one of 43 prisoners granted early release after receiving a Royal pardon before Khmer New Year, and that another 119 prisoners were to receive sentence reductions.
King Norodom Sihamoni traditionally offers pardons to prisoners on four occasions each year: Khmer New Year, Visak Bochea Day, the Water Festival and the King’s birthday.