Pursat provincial police on Wednesday sent four journalists and the wife of one of the men to the provincial court after they were arrested on suspicion of extorting money from a petrol station owner, said Mo Lida, the provincial deputy police chief in charge of serious crime.
He said the journalists had extorted money on Monday from the owner of the petrol station in Krakor district.
“We detained them after the petrol station owner filed a complaint. They said the owner’s business licence had expired and that to avoid the business being closed down, he had had to give the group $200 to $300.
“The owner said he didn’t have any money, but he gave them $10 to get them to leave and then lodged a complaint with the police,” he said.
Two of the journalists, both 31 years old, work for media outlet TNC, Lida said. The other two were a 40-year-old employee of PCN and a 31-year-old who works for CPN. The woman was the wife of one of the journalists.
Lida noted that the journalists and the woman all protested their innocence.
Ministry of Information spokesman Phos Sovann told The Post on Wednesday that he had yet to receive information about the case, but said that previously there have been a small number of journalists who violated their professional ethics.
“In the past, we saw three big cases involving extortion in violation of their professional code of conduct,” he said.
The journalists’ media outlets could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.
However, another local media outlet reported on Tuesday that a few months ago, the same people attempted to extort 200,000 riel ($50) by claiming to be Forestry Administration officials and Ministry of Interior policemen after seeing timber hidden under a house.
The owner of the house did not have any money to give the group at the time and subsequently reported the incident to the police.
“These unscrupulous journalists have deceived people in almost all provinces. When they arrive at a soil excavating site, they claim to be a unit from the ministries of Mines and Energy, and Environment.
“When they see timber transporters, they say they are Forestry Administration officials from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. If they encounter gambling offences, they claim to be police officers and demand a lot of money,” the media outlet said.
On July 19, Preah Sihanouk provincial Military Police detained Club of Independent Journalists president Hun Sokha and TN Online publisher Keo Rattana, alongside five others in connection with a land dispute in Sihanoukville, but they were later released.