A former reporter at the Khmer Times has accused its publisher of sexual harassment, saying she resigned from the newspaper and returned to her home country to get away from repeat propositions of money for sex.
The publisher, T. Mohan, denied the accusations, saying the WhatsApp messages publicized by the ex-employee were “heavily redacted and distorted” and that the “things as accused never happened.”
April Reposar, a Filipino journalist, wrote in an open letter to the Philippine Embassy in Phnom Penh on Friday that the events were “embarrassing and disturbing” and “made me question my worth and my purpose.”
Reposar said in her letter that she started at the newspaper as a “socialite writer” in April to report on local gatherings and events. However, she alleges that at a dinner in May, the Khmer Times publisher proposed that he would put her up in a nice apartment to be “friends with benefits.”
Reposar said she felt scared and refused.
According to screenshots of WhatsApp messages attached to Reposar’s letter, Mohan apologized “for my proposal” after being politely but firmly turned down. In a later message, though, he asked her to reconsider.
“Lets help each other. 1k a month,” one message says.
When Reposar replied that they could be friends but that she did not wish to have a sexual relationship, one of Mohan’s alleged messages asks: “Completely no sexual activity? Even without intercourse?”
In a written statement, Mohan disputed the events of Reposar’s letter. He claimed she borrowed hundreds of dollars from him and that it was in fact Reposar who was the one to suggest becoming his “partner.” But he says he deleted the messages proving this out of a sense of shame.
“The [Khmer Times] Admin Manager was informed of the indecent proposal from her, the proposal was not from me but from her,” Mohan said. “There were text messages on this and some of [sic] from her was explicit and I deleted all of it as it was shameful.”
The screenshots of the WhatsApp messages kept and released by Reposar were “distorted” and none of the allegations true, he said.
“The complain [sic] comes after more than the two weeks since she left the country. Why not do it before she left so that I can defend myself,” he said. “My defence – speak to any of the female staff in the office, some of whom have worked with me for 15 years, some from the day the paper started. Check and see whether any of this has happened to them.”
Reposar said she was hiring lawyers to prepare a sworn affidavit.
Khmer Times chief executive Kay Kimsong, when contacted by VOD, dismissed the allegations. He said that Reposar had only been at the newspaper for a “very short time” and that “I almost forgot about her.”
Information Ministry spokesman Meas Sophorn said he thought Reposar should file a police complaint as the claims amounted to criminal conduct.
“This is a criminal case,” Sophorn said. “She can complain to the authorities. They will solve the problem. That is our Cambodian law.”
Mohan, a Malaysian national, has been involved in Cambodian media since the 1990s, heading The Cambodia Times from 1993 to 1995 and Cambodia Today from 1995 to 1996. He founded The Khmer Times and has served as publisher since 2014, briefly standing down as “managing editor” due to serial plagiarism in 2015 before returning to his dual role.
(Translated and edited from the original article on VOD Khmer.)