Sath Chanbuth, a Rasmei Kampuchea Daily and Apsara TV journalist, appeared for questioning on Monday at the Mondulkiri provincial court on allegations of incitement and defamation in line with a lawsuit filed by Lieutenant Colonel Sophat Serivuthy.
The defendant was questioned by Mondulkiri provincial court prosecutor Eang Sokun over a video he released where he interviewed about 10 indigenous families of O’Raing district’s Dak Dam commune who accused Serivuthy of planting fence posts in an attempt to grab their land.
“The court must conduct a proper [and fair] investigation. I disseminated correct information and have a reliable source from among the residents,” Chanbuth said.
Mondulkiri provincial court prosecutor Mam Vanda said the questioning was a primary procedure to collect further evidence regarding the allegations filed by the plaintiff.
“We questioned him because we wanted to collect evidence regarding the complaint. We allowed relevant parties to show evidence. The defendant can testify and the plaintiff has the burden to prove the defendant’s guilt.
“A summons is a procedure of the court. But I don’t know yet when the court will summon him. We’ll have to check his testimony first,” he said.
The plaintiff’s lawyer Seng Singheng told The Post on Monday that in July this year, Chanbuth allegedly disseminated false information accusing his client of land encroachment. Serivuthy was said to have asked Chanbuth to amend his report and take down the video but the latter refused to do so.
“I expect the court will process it in accordance with the legal procedure,” he said.
Alliance of Cambodian Journalists (CamboJa) founder May Titthara said the plaintiff should have issued a statement to correct the report instead of taking the matter to court.
He said legal action against journalists posed a threat to freedom of the press.
“As a journalist, he [Chanbuth] must find relevant documents and credible sources to support his allegations [against Serivuthy]. He should also seek legal advice from a lawyer,” Titthara said.
Serivuthy could not be reached for comment.