A journalist in Svay Rieng province has filed a complaint against a Bavet City police chief, saying the officer ordered journalists to delete a live video about a traffic accident before threatening to handcuff them and deleting the video himself.
The complaint came after a reporter from Luos Seng News and other local media outlets did a live broadcast about a car accident on November 2 in Bavet City’s Bavet commune around 7 p.m.
Luos Seng, the publisher of the Luos Seng News who spoke on behalf of a reporter named Prum Chantha, told VOD that he had filed a complaint against Bavet City police chief Em Sovannarith at the provincial court on November 21 for threats against reporters.
As the reporters streamed live, the police chief ordered them to delete the video, according to Seng. When the reporter refused, the police chief grabbed the phone to delete it himself while threatening to handcuff them.
“Police officers seem to be so cruel by threatening to handcuff if [reporters] didn’t delete the live video,” he said. “It’s a threat, as well as breaking the spirit of reporters. So I filed a complaint and sought justice.
“Relevant establishments should give value to reporters, not threaten them,” he added.
Seng also claimed that the prosecutor asked the reporters to “compromise” and not file a complaint, but he would still demand an investigation.
Svay Rieng provincial court prosecutor Kham Sophary declined to answer any questions about the case, claiming that he couldn’t hear the questions well.
Police chief Sovannarith denied the allegations.
“I did not grab anything from them. I said in relation to traffic, they can take videos of whatever they want,” he said, adding that he had been working on a crime nearby before the incident occurred.
CCIM’s media director Ith Sothoeuth said that the Luos Seng reporters should wait for the case to work its way through the court system. Threatening to handcuff or use violence against reporters who are fulfilling their duties in a public place, he said, is a “threat against press freedom.”
“If [authorities] have any reason for wanting the reporters to stop doing live [videos] or stop broadcasting that activity, they should have reasons to justify and should not use threats to handcuff or imprison reporters,” he said.
Violations of press freedom are increasingly common in Cambodia, where a recent UN report tracked 23 cases of criminal charges against journalists as a result of their work since 2017.
Repeated harassment of reporters during the NagaWorld protests — including the expulsion of journalists and human rights observers from public spaces, threats over deleting videos and photos of authorities’ activities and verbal harassment — even prompted the Information Ministry to acknowledge that lower-level authorities did not understand the rights afforded to journalists and had acted beyond their remit.