Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Journos face complaint over seemingly routine reporting



Journos face complaint over seemingly routine reporting

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith speaks at an event last year in Phnom Penh. Heng Chivoan

Journos face complaint over seemingly routine reporting

Two journalists for the Cambodia Daily have been named in a complaint to authorities by villagers in Ratanakkiri for asking questions about politics, with the information minister subsequently posting one of the pair’s passport details to Facebook as part of what he called a “reminder” to reporters during the election campaign.

Labelled “a bit absurd” by the newspaper’s general manager, the complaint was lodged with O’Yadav district authorities by three ethnic Jarai minority villagers from Pate commune – one of them a former opposition commune chief who recently defected to the ruling party.

The complaint, and the subsequent publication of the reporter’s details, comes on the heels of recently released media guidelines that critics have slammed as a “code of censorship” that they fear could be used to clamp down on the press ahead of the June 4 commune council vote.

According to a translation of the document, the trio complained because they were asked why villagers in the commune’s Kong Thom village had supported the opposition Sam Rainsy Party in the 2012 commune election when surrounding areas had largely voted for the ruling CPP.

“They came with bad intentions, they came to research, [and] monitor the election and incited people by not respecting the National Election Council’s law, which does not allow talking about politics during the election campaign,” it read.

Though the law does prohibit reporting about the election for a 24-hour period prior to polls opening, the media guidelines issued by the National Election Committee do not ban reporting on politics across the board.

As noted by Cambodia Daily General Manager Douglas Steele, the reporters were simply asking questions. “The complaint against The Cambodia Daily . . . is a bit absurd. Reporters asking questions about politics during an election campaign – isn’t that part of the . . . job?” Steele wrote on Facebook.

However, the lack of any obvious offence, much less a conviction, did not stop Information Minister Khieu Kanharith from uploading a photo of one of the journalist’s passports to his own Facebook, with text telling journalists to adhere to election laws and ethics guidelines during the campaign. Speaking via Facebook Messenger, Kanharith yesterday said the message was “a reminder, not accusation”.

Asked whether journalists could ask citizens about who they were supporting and why he responded: “Better ask their opinion in the subtle way. And beware of the translation. Do not get lost in translation.”

Responding to a question of whether it was appropriate to publish personal information of an individual not accused of a crime, he said: “The law didn’t prohibit it.”

One of the trio who complained, Rmam Yuot – a former Sam Rainsy Party commune chief who defected to the ruling party after being passed over for a spot on the ballot by the opposition – said he felt the questions had the potential to compromise the secrecy of his vote, despite admitting he did not actually answer them.

Provincial Election Committee head Pen Tundy said he was unaware of the issue, but noted compromising the confidentiality of a vote could attract a maximum $5,000 fine.

MOST VIEWED

  • Kingdom's Covid cluster cases jump to 194

    The Ministry of Health on February 25 confirmed 65 new cases of Covid-19, with 58 linked to the February 20 community transmission. The latest cluster cases include nine Vietnamese nationals, five Cambodians, one each from Korea, Singapore and Japan, with the rest being Chinese. This brings the total number

  • Locations shut, dozens more Covid-19 positive

    The Ministry of Health has closed 23 locations in connection with the February 20 community transmission of Covid-19 and summoned for testing anyone who had direct contact with affected people and places. The number of discovered related infections has risen to 76, including 39 women. In a press release,

  • Preah Sihanouk hit with travel ban

    Preah Sihanouk Provincial Administration has announced a temporary travel ban to and from the province, except for ambulances and trucks transporting goods. The announcement came after prime minister Hun Sen called on people in the province to travel only if necessary, and that people not

  • Cambodia's Covid cluster cases rise to 137

    The Ministry of Health on February 24 recorded 40 more cases of Covid-19, with 38 linked to the February 20 community transmission. Of the 40, two are imported cases involving Chinese passengers. The 38 include two Vietnamese nationals and one Cambodian, with the rest being Chinese. This brings the total cases

  • Covid cluster raises alarm, health bodies urge vigilance

    The Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia have expressed great concern over the February 20 cluster transmission of Covid-19 in the community. Both entities appealed for vigilance and cooperation in curbing further spread of the virus. Ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine said

  • AstraZeneca jabs touch down in Phnom Penh airport

    The first shipment of 324,000 doses of the AstraZeneca/SII vaccine which was provided through the Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) Facility was delivered to Phnom Penh International Airport on March 2. The rest of the COVAX provided vaccines will arrive in Cambodia at a later date.