Two Cambodia Daily reporters were questioned yesterday by the Ratanakkiri Provincial Court over a complaint filed by three locals in the province’s Pate commune during a reporting trip for the recently-concluded commune elections.
The complaint was filed in early June after Daily reporters Zsombor Peter and Aun Pheap visited the commune and asked residents why they had voted for the Sam Rainsy Party, which had won the chief’s position for the past two mandates.
The seemingly innocuous questions prompted former SRP Commune Chief Rmam Yuot and two others to file a complaint accusing the pair of “incitement” and asking questions about politics while interviewing residents – an act that violates neither election laws nor a set of media guidelines issued by the National Election Committee.
Chea Pich, chief prosecutor, did not elaborate on his line of questioning, and would only say he had asked for details from their reporting trip to the province in May.
“I asked them to tell me what they interviewed villagers about during their story coverage of the election campaign. They told me about their purpose of the story,” he said.
He said he would use their responses to check if they violated any articles in the Election Law or Penal Code. The reporters appeared before court after being summonsed for the second time last month, but had requested a postponement.
Jodie DeJonge, editor-in-chief of the Cambodia Daily, said the reporters were asked if they were “driving around Pate telling people to vote for the opposition, or did you actually write a newspaper story?”
“Sek Sophorn, their lawyer, said the prosecutor hasn’t yet made any decision on whether to pursue further investigation. He [Sophorn] said he explained the job of a journalist. That no one has to answer [their questions],” she said in an email.