The provincial director of Kampong Speu’s Information Department on Monday ordered four journalists to renew their press passes after they allegedly extorted money from a soil excavation company and entered Tmat Porng Military School unpermitted.
Men Sinoun said she questioned the journalists on Saturday before allowing them home.
“I merely asked them to obtain proper press passes before going anywhere to seek information. I asked them to adhere to professional standards of journalism.
“They came to see the quarry and demanded money. While my husband, the deputy head of the military training school, said he did not mind them coming to ask for money – since they weren’t asking for much and because they were local journalists – I wanted to know which media outlet they worked for.
“I asked for a copy of their press cards and they had expired,” Sinoun said.
Ministry of Information spokesman Phos Sovann said on Monday that some provincial reporters did not adhere to professional codes of conduct.
“Some people pretend to be journalists to obtain money from private companies. But I urge all reporters to adhere to professional practices to avoid tarnishing the reputation of news media.
A Facebook post by Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith on Sunday confirmed the journalists’ press passes had expired.
However, they responded on Facebook that they had been informed by villagers in the Tmat Porng area of a soil excavation operation affecting the public road and the environment.
They said it was extremely dusty due to trucks carrying soil on National Road 51.
They tried to inspect the site and take pictures, they said, in the hope of obtaining a response from the company, but they did not get to meet the owner and left.
The journalists said they then encountered two soldiers on a motorbike and were forced into the military base to meet the commander.
“They threatened to handcuff us. They said they would send us to the military police if we published any stories. We were forced to delete all the images taken at the quarry,” their Facebook post read.
The head of military school asked them why they had entered the base without permission, a claim they denied.
They said he told them that the quarry belonged to the military school and that reporters, and Ministry of Mines and Energy officials, had been informed of the operation.
“The military commander asked to take pictures of our passes. After that, his subordinate told us to put thumbprints on a written contract, prohibiting us from publishing a story about the operation. After we provided the thumbprints, he allowed us to leave.
“We would like to ask the provincial Department of Information to correct the accusation that we entered the military school without permission. It was not like that,” they wrote.
Three of the journalists are reporters – Kem Sros, from the Khmer Power newspaper; Touch Sambo, who works for the National Liberation newspaper and Sreng Song, from Chuay Khmer News.
The fourth, Touch Sambath, is editor-in-chief of akktvonline.net.