Cambodian Journalism Review

Arrest Were Wrong Under Press Law
October 24, 2007, 1:02 am
Filed under: Press Freedom

Letter to the editor

The Cambodia Daily

 Arrest Were Wrong Under Press Law

I am writing to clarify some points in the story (“‘Stealth Clause’ Used Against Cambodian Press,” the Cambodia Daily, October 26, page 1).

             First, Article 7 of the Cambodian press law lists “slander, defamation and insults” as “grave professional abuses.”  But it does not say that if a journalist fails to present both sides in a controversial or defamatory story they will be punished or jailed.

             Second, the first part of Article 20 says “Any act committed by an employer, editor or author of a text which violates the criminal law shall be punished according to the criminal law.” But in the second part of the same article it clearly states: “However, no person must be arrested or put in prison for expressing [his or her] opinions.”

             Third, Article 21 says, “All previous provisions related to the press shall be nullified.”

             This means the court cannot use the UNTAC penal code or another criminal law apart from the press law when it wants to prosecute journalists.

             So, even though the first part of Article 20 says a journalist who violates the criminal law shall be punished according to the criminal law, Artcile 21 stresses that the so-called “criminal law” cannot be applied to journalists when the press law is adopted.

             Fourth, according to an international media lawyer, in the internationally recognized democratic media standard hold that even if a journalist is accused by a public official of defamation, two important aspects of evidence must be presented.

             First, the public official must prove that the information reported is “false and defamatory”, and second, he or she must also prove that the journalist made the remarks in “a bad faith” or with “malicious intent.”

             In many court cases against the Cambodian media, virtually all journalists accused of defamation were just doing their work like other journalists in democractic countries around the world. Indeed, some had made mistakes like any other person, but they didn’t really do it in “bad faith” or with “malicious intent.”

Moeun Chhean Nariddh

Phnom Penh

October 28, 2005



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