Los Seng, publisher of Los Seng News, has been placed under court supervision for six months over a live video report by two staff members in Kampot province.
In November, two LSN reporters covered a protest outside the Kampot provincial hall against the arrests of residents involved in a land dispute. A police report at the time said four suspects had been arrested, and LSN interviewed residents who said that among the four was a 4-year-old child.
The two reporters were arrested, then issued a public apology that although the 4-year-old and his mother were taken to the provincial police station, they were not in detention. The reporters were later released and placed under court supervision.
On Thursday, publisher Seng was questioned at the Kampot Provincial Court for incitement and insult in relation to the case.
Seng said the court had decided to let him go home, but also put him under court supervision for six months.
Seng asked not to give further comments out of fear for repercussions.
At the time of his reporters’ arrests, however, Seng had been outspoken.
“When any report is a crime, where is the freedom of the journalist? They could use the Press Law, but instead they use their power against the journalist,” Seng told VOD in November. “Their action is to break the spirit of the journalist from daring to cover news in Kampot province.”
The province had recently received a new governor, Mao Thonin, who had a reputation for listening to residents’ concerns, especially in relation to land disputes, during his previous tenure in Pursat. But in Kampot, he quickly turned against journalists.
He ordered the director of his provincial information department in November to more tightly control their work.
“All news institutions that come to work in the province must go through the department’s review,” Thonin said in a meeting with officials at the time. “They cannot just come to report exaggerations. Every night I listen, I almost get a headache — they cannot do this. Authorities work very hard and sometimes [people] believe [these journalists’] useless words that impact the honor and hard work of our leaders.”
Nop Vy, executive director of the Cambodian Journalists Alliance, said on Thursday that legal actions against journalists were threats, and authorities should not use the judicial system against reporters.
Information Minister Khieu Kanharith also spoke in November against the authorities’ actions against LSN.
“If [journalists] take pictures in front of the provincial hall, why not let them take pictures?” Kanharith said at the time. “Arresting them is wrong, it is arbitrary. So our administration is also abusive. We do not understand. Or, as a provincial governor has said, wherever journalists go, they have to report to the authorities — it is not like this.”