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Hun Sen accuses journalists of extortion

Hun Sen accuses journalists of extortion

PRIME Minister Hun Sen has threatened to send journalists to jail if he uncovers

evidence that they are extorting money from high-ranking Government officials, okhna

and businessmen.

The PM made his remarks at a speech on September 16 when he was examining flood damage,

and came a week after Malaysian newspaper publisher T Mohan was accused of attempting

to extort $5,000 from Phnom Penh's Naga Casino, allegations which Mohan denies.

Hun Sen said that 25 percent of local journalists extort money and claimed that high-ranking

Government officials and some businessmen were becoming "hostages" of journalists.

"Some journalists are acting like kidnappers; they've extorted money,"

Hun Sen said during a visit to Kob Srov's Dike on the outskirts of Phnom Penh. "Some

day I will take action against journalists, and if I can find any evidence you will

be in jail."

Hun Sen decried the use of blackmail as a new strategy for "kidnapping",

which he said is being committed by local journalists, comparing the practices to

the infamous kidnapper Rasmach who was hunted down and killed in a shoot-out with

police.

"I know, so you [journalists] have to be careful," said Hun Sen.

Rasmach was accused of having committed 13 separate kidnapping operations in which

he netted more than $1.3 million before he was killed in August.

The Independent Journalist Union (IJU) rejected Hun Sen's remarks. On September 19

the IJU president, Cheng Sokna, said:"It was unacceptable that the Prime Minister

accused journalists [of being comparable] to a master kidnapper Rasmach."

However, Sokna agreed that some journalists extort money. He said these practices

are possible because officials and businessmen are involved in corrupt practices

or illegal business activities.

According to the IJU, up to 75 percent of civil servants benefit from corruption.

The union said that because civil servants pay for their jobs they have no choice

but to make money from their position.

At the round table organized by the Club of Cambodian Journalists on September 20

at the Sunway Hotel, the Secretary of State of the Ministry of Information, Khieu

Kanharith, declined to comment on Hun Sen's allegations.

But during a discussion on a subdecree of the Press Law, Kanharith explained that

some newspapers that have received licenses from the Ministry of Information do not

publish regularly. Instead, they use media passes to extort money, especially in

the provinces.

The Minister of Information, Lou Lay Sreng, told the Post that there were about 200

newspapers in Cambodia, but only about 10 of them were professional and published

with any regularity.

"I acknowledge that some individual Government officials and journalists are

corrupt, but we don't know who they are," said Lou Lay Sreng.

He said his ministry has not taken any action against journalists who extort money.

However, he said if newspapers publish an exaggerated article or an article which

harms an individual's honor, then those individual officials can file a complaint

with the Phnom Penh Municipal Court.

Article 14 of the Press Law approved on July 18, 1995, says that a journalist who

writes an article with the purpose of blackmailing someone can be fined from one

to five million riels, but jail terms are not prescribed.

The Chief of Staff of National Police, Mao Chandara, declined to comment on the allegations

of journalists involved in blackmail.

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