A Cambodian media organization and rights group are investigating a police summons issued to a reporter in response to a defamation complaint filed against him after he wrote an article about drug trafficking in a southwestern Cambodian coastal province.
Chhum Pearum, a reporter for Doeun Ampil newspaper and online media Fresh News, was summoned by Sihanoukville provincial deputy police chief Kol Phaly to appear at the police station on Monday after Phok Chan, a woman charged in the drug-trafficking case, accused him of defamation and filed a complaint.
Boun Narith, provincial coordinator of the domestic rights group Licadho, said he was surprised to see the drug ex-convict accuse the reporter of defamation after she had been imprisoned twice.
“If the court charges reporters, it means the court encourages the drug traffickers,” he told RFA’s Khmer Service.
Chhean Nariddh Moeun, director of the Cambodia Institute for Media Studies, said police should look into the case carefully because the woman who filed the complaint had been imprisoned and accused Chhum Pearum of defamation after she had been released.
He said police often ignore articles about illegal fishing, drug operations and forest crimes, but still take action against reporters who report on the incidents whenever someone lodges a complaint against them.
“But when reporters are murdered, the police ignore it,” he said. Last year two reporters were murdered while investigating illegal logging and fishing activities, respectively.
Chhum Pearum said police had questioned him after he had written the article that named Phok Chan as a drug trafficker to see if he previously knew her.
Phok Chan, who is Vietnamese, has been imprisoned twice in Cambodia on drug charges.
Sihanoukville provincial police chief Chhoun Narin said police had summoned Chhum Pearum because there was a complaint against him, and police had an obligation to look into it.
“This is not a big deal,” he said. “We police officers need to work according to procedures.”
Reported by RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.