The editor-in-chief of the opposition Khmer-language daily was sentenced in absentia to one year in prison stemming from his reports on alleged government corruption, according to local and international news reports. He was arrested later in his home and imprisoned in Prey Sar Prison near the capital, Phnom Penh, according to the reports.
A Cambodian court ruled that a series of articles published by the daily in April and May, accusing officials working under Deputy Prime Minister Sok An of corruption, had violated criminal disinformation laws. The court also fined Hang Chakra 9 million riels (US$2,250), according to the Southeast Asian Press Alliance. Hang Chakra said he stood by his coverage.
Cambodian officials sentenced Hang Chakra under the penal code enacted by the former U.N. Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC), which allows criminal prosecution and jail terms of up to three years for disinformation. UNTAC’s legal authority expired with the promulgation of a new national constitution in 1993, so the use of the criminal code suggests officials had targeted the editor for imprisonment.
Cambodia’s National Assembly decriminalized defamation in 2007, and the country’s 1995 Press Law broadly protects press freedoms. Publishing “false” information remains a criminal offense, but with a lesser fine of up to 5 million riels (US$1,250), according to the The Phnom Penh Post.
An appeal court upheld the sentence on August 11, according to local news reports. King Norodom Sihamoni wrote to Prime Minister Hun Sen on October 27 requesting the journalist’s release, other news reports said.