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
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
"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some newspapers that have received licenses from the Ministry of Information do not
publish regularly.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 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.