Fifty journalists yesterday sought intervention from the Information Ministry to release four employees of little-known media outlets who were detained for allegedly colluding with timber traders in Ratanakkiri province last week.
Military Police officers caught the four men on June 14 allegedly soliciting bribes from a timber owner and his driver in exchange for keeping their illegal activities under wraps.
The suspects – Yon Tith from Khmer Youth News, Peng Soktharak from CPN Online, Mey Menghuy from Phnom Penh News and Chan Nara from the TNM Online – were said to have extorted $600 in addition to a monthly payment of $500.
Leang Seang, a journalist working for the Khmer Democratic Association, said the group told Information Minister Khieu Kanharith about abuse it says journalists face from authorities in Ratanakkiri province.
“We requested the minister to help our journalists who are framed and arrested and to find the truth. We also asked Samdech Techo [Hun Sen] to find the forestry crime offenders in Ratanakkiri province,” he said.
Chhin Dun, the director of Khmer Youth News, said that the four suspects had been set up by timber traders and authorities.
However, Dun admitted that journalists “have received some money from the timber traders”, adding that corrupt officials have received much more in bribes.
Ministry spokesman Ouk Kimseng said the minister acknowledged the request for intervention and will submit a statement to the Justice Ministry.