A charge of ‘criminal disinformation’ filed against a Cambodian newspaper publisher is raising concerns among free speech advocates in the country. The Alliance for Freedom of Expression in Cambodia (AFEC) says the legal action against Mr. Dam Sithek, publisher of Moneakseka Khmer (Khmer Conscience) newspaper, was made by a government lawyer on behalf to Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Sok An.
AFEC reports that Sithek was summoned to appear in court on July 12, although ‘it is uncertain under which law (he) is being charged.’
The lawsuit stems from an article published by Moneakseka on June 13, and which suggests a power struggle inside Cambodia’s ruling party. The article, AFEC says, also reports that some party officials suspect Sok An — the official in charge of Cambodia’s infrastructure projects — of graft and corruption.
AFEC says there seems to be a rising trend for filing criminal defamation charges against journalists in Cambodia. ‘Recently, criminal charges have been filed against the media and government critics using the interim 1992 UNTAC law on criminal defamation and disinformation. According to the article 62 of the UNTAC, which deals with criminal disinformation, those found guilty of publishing false information with malicious intent which is likely to disturb the peace can be sentenced from six months to three years in prison and fined up to $750,’ AFEC reports.
The group adds that ‘just a week ago, another publisher, Mr. You Saravuth, of Sralanh Khmer (Love Khmer) newspaper was sued by the Prime Minister’s Nephew, Mr. Hun Tho, on similar charges. He is now in hiding as he claimed he received a death threat from Tho because of an article he published related to land grabbing by the infamous Nephew.’
that cited an unnamed source inside the ruling party claiming there is a power struggle between the high ranking officials inside the party and claiming that some party officials