Sem Diya

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Cambodian publisher Sem Diya was arrested in July 2022 and is being held in pre-trial detention on a criminal incitement accusation related to his reporting on a trucking incident.

Sem Diya, publisher of the local Battambang Post, was arrested on July 16, 2022, along with two others for allegedly inciting a group of truck drivers to attack law enforcement officers for impounding their trucks on charges of illegal overloading for border trade with Thailand, news reports said.

Phnom Proek deputy police chief Major Mom Saroen said Sem Diya and the others arrested were the “masterminds” behind the allegedly illegal trucking operation. Sem Diya was covering the incident as a journalist, the Cambodian Center for Independent Media (CCIM) said.

A Battambang provincial court document named Sem Diya among the accused, along with two others identified as corn vendors, those reports said. Colonel Rong Sarim, deputy commander of Battambang Provincial Military Operation who remained at large, was also accused.

Article 495 of the penal code, a provision that defines incitement to commit a felony, carries a maximum two-year prison sentence and a fine of up to four million riels (US$970), and has been used to jail journalists. CPJ could not find contact details for the Battambang Post or Sem Diya’s family.

Him Khortieth, research and advocacy manager of local press freedom advocacy and journalists’ group CamboJA, told CPJ that his group believed Sem Diya was detained for his journalistic activities and that the incitement charges against him were false.

Chhan Sokunthea, CCIM media development director, which provides legal assistance to threatened journalists, told CPJ by email in late September that CCIM considered Sem Diya’s detention to be related to his journalism.

He said Sem Diya’s family had accepted a Ministry of Information-appointed lawyer in the case, an atypical move for the family of a person charged by the government. 

Cambodia’s Ministry of Interior, which oversees the country’s prison system, did not reply to CPJ’s emailed request for comment on Sem Diya’s conviction and detention status in late 2022.