Arrested Journalists Released to Apologize, Returned to Questioning

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Two journalists from Los Seng News made a public apology on Wednesday after they were arrested for their coverage of a land dispute in Kampot. (LSN)
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Two journalists who were detained in Kampot alongside a 4-year-old child were allowed out on Wednesday to film an apology. But they were then sent to the provincial court for further questioning.

Four people involved in a land dispute were arrested in Chhouk district on Sunday. Residents protested on Monday, saying that a 4-year-old child was one of the four detained. Two journalists covering the protest were arrested for broadcasting and repeating the claim.

Los Seng News reporter Say Sophea, 24, said in his Wednesday apology video that although the 4-year-old and his mother were at the provincial police station, they were not in detention.

“I’ve seen with my own eyes that they are not being detained. … The words were wrong when I said that the provincial police chief had ordered it,” Sophea said. “The child followed his mother because the child is not attached to other people.”

“This is my mistake and I would like to apologize to the governor and provincial police chief,” he continued. “Thank you major-general for not criminalizing us and giving back to us our freedom.”

On Wednesday, Licadho provincial coordinator Pen Vuthea said the child’s brother had turned up outside the police station, so the child was now able to leave to be with relatives or return to his mother.

“He can go in and out and meet with his relatives because his brother is there,” he said.

Three land disputants now remained in custody, including the mother and two men, Vuthea said. A provincial police report on Tuesday said police had arrested four suspects on Sunday for violence against the owner of a property and incitement.

Vuthea added that the two journalists were now also back at the police station since filming their apology.

Kha Den Na, spokesperson for the prosecutor’s office, said the three land disputants had been charged, but he did not have the exact charges immediately on hand.

The two journalists were being questioned by prosecutors, he said.

Provincial police chief Mao Chanmathurith could not be reached for comment.

Los Seng, publisher of Los Seng News, said he didn’t know what was happening with his jailed staff members Sophea and Ing Thoeun, 27.

“They made a video and apologized, and they told them that they would release them, but after apologizing they took them to the court and now they still haven’t released them, and they are driving us crazy,” Seng said.

“Whether we want to send a reporter or lawyer, it is difficult to make any plan,” he added. “They said they would be released in the evening, would be released in the morning…”

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