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Journalist summoned over ‘inciting’ report on Ratanakkiri land dispute

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
The case stemmed from TV3 reporter Phal Dam’s article about a land dispute at an abandoned Ratanakkiri airport site. Supplied

Journalist summoned over ‘inciting’ report on Ratanakkiri land dispute

A Ratanakkiri province-based TV3 reporter has requested an extension to a court summons he was issued last week which stemmed from a story he covered about a land dispute at an abandoned Ratanakkiri airport site.

The summons, issued by deputy prosecutor Ra Borandy and dated June 3, said Phal Dam, the 52-year-old journalist, was due to appear in the provincial court at 9am on Monday to respond to allegations made by Banlung town deputy governor Put Dany, who accused Dam of “incitement to commit a crime”.

Dam told The Post last week that he had not committed any crimes and he did not know why he was being accused.

Concerning the story that caused the controversy, he said he interviewed residents who criticised the authorities’ for allowing land grabs at airport sites and their refusal to deal with land disputes.

Dam said: “I don’t know Put Dany, but I’ve just found out that he is the deputy governor of Banlung town. Now I am preparing the relevant documents concerning the case and researching facts.

“Moreover, I am looking for a lawyer to help, as I do not yet understand what charges are being brought against me.”

He said on Sunday that he had applied to postpone his appearance last Friday in court and mentioned the summons was unclear.

Dany could not be reached for comment.

Provincial Department of Information director Kol Phanna said last week he had received information about the case, but he did not know the reason for the lawsuit. He urged the two parties to settle the matter out of court.

He said there had been prior complaints against the reporter concerning clarification in his reporting, although they had never led to legal action.

Phanna said: “I do not see this summons as a threat to the freedom of the press. Every person has his or her reputation to consider, so if reporters are reporting professionally and ethically, I don’t believe that they will be sued, and if they have enough evidence, they should not be afraid.”

Nop Vy, the executive director of the Cambodian Journalists Association (Cambo-JA), said the lawsuit was a violation of the rights of the press.

According to the law on journalism, Vy said, if journalists write or publish something that is not clear, those involved should clarify or write a letter to the media organisation.

“If there’s an error related to news writing, we correct it by using the journalism laws, not by using the courts. If journalists face issues like this over small things, no journalist would dare write about the inaction of officials, and more officials would become corrupt,” he said.

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