Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Reporter for Radio Free Asia speaks in disinformation suit

Reporter for Radio Free Asia speaks in disinformation suit

Reporter for Radio Free Asia speaks in disinformation suit

Takeo Province

RADIO Free Asia reporter Sok Serey and four other men stood trial on Tuesday for disinformation charges, and judges said they would hand down a verdict on February 19.

The charges against the five men stem from an November 2008 radio report by Sok Serey about a dispute between Cham Muslim community leader Rim Math and 206 members of his mosque.

The report featured comments from the four other accused – including two activists from the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights and two representatives of the mosque – concerning allegations that Rim Math misspent 10 million riels (US$2,406) that had been earmarked for a local community project.

In court on Tuesday, Sok Serey said he had merely been reporting information provided to him by his sources, adding that he had passed on the story two times before finally airing it because he considered it to be in the public interest.

“I received this information three times,” he said. “The first and second times I did not broadcast it. But the third time, the sources told me that it was a big story that would affect many people in their community.”

Prosecutor Say Nora seemed sympathetic to this argument, telling the court that he believed Sok Serey had “done his job right”.

But he said the October 2008 broadcast included incorrect references to a “demonstration” that had never occurred.

“Sok Serey aired a report about a demonstration, but there was no source talking about the demonstration. In fact, the demonstration did not happen. I told Sok Serey to correct this broadcast, but Sok Serey did not correct it. That means he wanted to broadcast something bad about someone,” Say Nora said.

Rim Math, who filed the complaint against the five men, said Tuesday that he now believes only two of them had been in the wrong, and that Sok Serey was not one of them.

He demanded 10 million riels in compensation from the two mosque representatives, who he maintained were guilty.

Four of the five accused appeared in court, including one who has been held in pretrial detention.

Muong Sokun, Sok Serey’s lawyer, said he hoped that the court would find his client not guilty “because my client has enough witnesses and evidence in his broadcasts to prove that he is not guilty”.

Am Sam Ath, technical superviser for the rights group Licadho, said he believed that the hearing had been conducted in accordance with proper court procedure, but he said the charges against the five men were baseless.

“The disinformation charges should never have been brought,” he said.

“Journalists and human rights activists should not be accused of this, even if there was no demonstration, because it was an important conflict that was happening as well,” he said.

MOST VIEWED

  • Government denies claims former Thai PM Yingluck issued Cambodian passport

    Government officials on Thursday denied claims that a Cambodian passport was issued to former Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who reportedly used it to register a company in Hong Kong. The Hong Kong-based English language South China Morning Post (SCMP) on Wednesday reported Hong Kong

  • Diplomatic passports issued to foreigners to be annulled

    The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation will move to annul diplomatic passports issued to those not born in Cambodia. Analysts say the move may be in relation to reports that former Thai prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra used a Cambodian passport to register as

  • Hun Sen warns Irish MP of EBA ‘mistake’

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Saturday told former Irish premier Enda Kenny, still a member of the EU nation’s parliament, that the 28-nation bloc should not make a “third mistake” regarding Cambodia by using the preferential Everything But Arms (EBA) agreement to “take 16 million

  • US senators call for GSP trade privilege cut

    Two US senators on Wednesday introduced the Cambodian Trade Act of 2019 bill, requiring the administration to re-examine Cambodia’s eligibility to access the preferential trade treatment granted by the US under the General System of Preferences (GSP). A Cambodian government spokesman said the move was