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Journalist summoned to court over photos

Journalist summoned to court over photos

A JOURNALIST in Siem Reap province says he has been summoned to appear in court after he tried to photograph two Forestry Administration officials who were allegedly accepting bribes.

Keng Phon, a journalist with the Sthabna Cheat Khmer newspaper, said he had been ordered to appear before a court prosecutor today, after one of the officials he tried to photograph filed a complaint against him. The summons was unexpected, he said, because he had previously asked police to investigate the officials, and they had stopped him from doing his job.

“I am so surprised because I have filed a complaint to district police about the forest officials,” Keng Phon said.

The journalist said he tried to take pictures of the forest officials during a crackdown on illegal logging in early March. The officials, he said, had stopped three carts carrying timber out of a forest in Kampong Kleng commune.

Keng Phon says he saw the two officials accept a bribe of 40,000 riels (about US$10) each.

When the journalist asked the officials about the incident, he said, they grabbed his neck and deleted the pictures from his camera in a scuffle that lasted two minutes.

“After the argument, I filed a complaint with district police about the forest officials, who destroyed my documents and threatened me,” Keng Phon said. “But when I got the [court] summons, it wasn’t my complaint. It was from a forest official.”

Y Kosal, the editor in chief of the twice-monthly newspaper Sthabna Cheat Khmer, said he also has not received a response to a complaint he filed with the court.

“We are the plaintiffs,” he said. “We have become the accused.”

Suon Mengly, a provincial Forestry Administration official who Keng Phon identified as the complainant, declined to comment Wednesday.

Ty Soveinthal, the provincial court prosecutor who was named in the summons, also declined to comment.

Heng Sam Nang, the deputy police chief in Soutr Nikom district, said he received the journalist’s complaint and forwarded it to provincial police, who, he said, have already forwarded it on to the court.

The court complaints come as officials continue a country-wide crackdown on suspected illegal logging activity. The crackdown was sparked by warnings from Prime Minister Hun Sen.

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