As an opposition lawmaker appeared in court yesterday to be questioned over a controversial case involving a Radio Free Asia journalist, the news outlet issued a strong rebuke against the accusations that he misrepresented himself in order to get an interview with a politically sensitive prisoner.
Chun Chanboth allegedly falsely declared his identity to gain entry, along with an opposition delegation including Long Ry and Mu Sochua. RFA reporters generally use pen names, and Chanboth used his real name, Huot Vuthy, to register at the jail.
Responding to the allegation that he had sought to deceive guards, RFA issued a statement calling it “beyond reason that authorities would target, harass, and threaten a journalist for doing his job”.
“[He] has not committed any crime. Nor did he misrepresent or conceal his identity as a well-known broadcaster with Radio Free Asia. These recent actions are meant to intimidate him and RFA’s staff during a highly contested election season.
We at RFA take these threats seriously. They will not distract or prevent RFA’s brave and courageous journalists and staff from continuing to bring the people of Cambodia the honest, objective, and unbiased news they deserve,” it said.
Despite the fact that Chanboth used his real name to gain entry, a video circulated after the incident appears to show Cambodia National Rescue Party lawmaker Long Ry identifying him as an “assistant”. But independent media advocates have described the case as a heavy-handed attempt to prevent a journalist from carrying out his legitimate work.
Ry, who represents Banteay Meanchey province, was questioned for two hours yesterday by prosecutor Sieng Sok at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court. Ry took a back door out of the court compound and declined to speak to the media.
His lawyer, Sam Sokong, said Ry had chosen to attend court to clarify the case despite his parliamentary immunity. Mu Sochua is set to appear before the court today, and Chanboth is due to appear on May 2.