Cambodia: Government files criminal charges against newspaper

New York, July 14, 2006—The Committee to Protect Journalists expresses its grave concern about a lawsuit filed by the Cambodian government against Dam Sithek, publisher of the Khmer-language Moneakseka newspaper, for allegedly publishing false information.

Deputy Prime Minister Sok An filed the charges through a government lawyer earlier this week over a June 13 article that accused the government of corruption, and claimed that a dispute over resources had sparked a power struggle inside the ruling Cambodia’s People’s Party, according to the Alliance for Freedom of Expression in Cambodia (AFEC).

An has publicly denied the corruption allegations. It is unclear whether he filed charges under the 1992 United Nations Transitional Authority of Cambodia (UNTAC) law, which allows for prison terms for publishing false information that courts rule “disturb the public peace,” or under the more liberal 1995 Press Law.

“We call upon the Cambodian government to drop these criminal charges against Dam Sithek and uphold the press freedom promoting provisions outlined in the 1995 Press Law,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “Prosecutions for so-called ’disinformation’ turn journalists into criminals and make it impossible for them to do their job.”