VOD maintains that its recent reporting on workers protesting at a garment factory was professional after factory lawyers complained to the news organization and demanded an apology.
Lawyers for Hand Seven Apparel, in Phnom Penh’s Pur Senchey district, sent a letter to the VOD office dated December 29, asking for an apology and for changes to a report after a livestream on VOD’s Facebook page earlier that month.
The letter warned the company would use legal action against the reporter if he didn’t apologize and make changes related to the video livestream on VOD’s page. It also claimed the reporter went inside the factory area without permission.
Director of the Cambodian Center for Independent Media, Ith Sothoeuth, replied that the video took place on December 15, 2022, not December 12, 2022, as the lawyer’s letter from the factory said.
He added that the VOD reporter’s livestream was entirely reported in front of the factory.
“In the livestream, we were outside the factory, which is on the road,” Sothoeuth said. “We want to clarify that he was confused during the opening presentation. He said ‘inside the factory.’ We can change this part. But he didn’t go inside the factory.”
He added that the reporter followed professional standards, only reporting where the protest occurred and interviewing the workers, which is not the same as convincing or joining the protest alongside the workers.
“I think the factory might be confused or he didn’t understand about the reporter’s role when we went down for reporting,” Sothoeuth said. “We had someone there but did not join the protest.”
The factory’s lawyer claimed that “the actions of VOD reporters impact security and social order and especially it has seriously demanded my client’s honor and dignity … so please apologize and make changes again in public related to this video livestream on VOD’s Facebook page from December 12, 2022, immediately, before the legal action is taken.”
Teng Phanarith, lawyer of Hand Seven’s director Zhang Wenlong, said his client’s factory did not shut down or harm workers’ rights. “I saw that this can impact the honor and dignity of his factory because his factory didn’t do anything like his reaction,” he said.
Duch Piseth, lawyer for the VOD reporter, said the video merely shows the reporter working in front of the factory where the protest happened.
“[After] I watched the video, [I saw] he didn’t enter the factory. He only interviewed the protesters in front of the factory,” he said.
Nop Vy, director of the Cambodian Journalists Alliance, said reporting in front of the factory is “normal for a reporter”: “Whenever there are workers protesting, [journalists] will go reporting. It is normal,” he said.
He said the factory should clarify in his letter exactly what misunderstanding should be corrected.