The Preah Sihanouk Provincial Court ruled on Monday to charge two journalists with incitement to commit a felony after they were arrested alongside five others on Friday in connection with a land dispute in Sihanoukville.
Club of Independent Journalists (CIJ) president Hun Sokha and Keo Rattana, the publisher of TN Online, were arrested for allegedly using violence against a realtor, from whom they had collected information regarding a territorial row.
Besides the duo, the provincial military police also detained four women, identified as Hang Chenda, 52; Hang Sophea, 49; Sen Leakna, 32; and Pen Sina, 57, as well as Heng Young, 50, a security guard.
The court prosecutor and spokesperson, Lim Bunheng, said an investigation into the case had been launched and that the journalists had been placed under court supervision.
“The court ruled to charge Rattana and Sokha with incitement to commit an intentional act of violence against the realtor,” Bunheng told The Post on Monday, noting that the incident occurred in Sihanoukville’s Commune 3 on Friday.
He said the two were charged under Articles 29, 495 and 497 of the Criminal Code, and Article 253 of the Land Law.
The five suspects, meanwhile, were charged with intent to commit a felony.
CIJ first deputy president Leang Sopheak said he signed a letter on Saturday, requesting Information Minister Khieu Kanharith to intervene in the case.
In the letter which Sopheak said had been well received by the minister on Monday, he said the two journalists had merely shot a video of a group of people protesting over a land dispute and left the scene without incident.
“The journalists met the protesting residents by chance. The coverage was not even critical of any senior government leader,” he said, noting that Sokha and Rattana were still “in the hands of the court”.
Phos Sovann, the spokesperson for the Ministry of Information, confirmed that it had received the letter and that was currently “monitoring the case”.
“We are examining all aspects before we determine the ways to intervene,” Sovann said.
National Military Police spokesman Eng Hy declined to comment, referring to the provincial prosecutor for enquiries.
Preah Sihanouk Military Police commander Heng Bunty also declined to comment, saying he was busy in a meeting.