Cambodian Journalists Alliance Association

Cambodia Daily Corrects Report Amid Legal Case Against Soeng Senkaruna

Phnom Penh Municipal Court, September 6, 2023. (CamboJA/ Pring Samrang)
Phnom Penh Municipal Court, September 6, 2023. (CamboJA/ Pring Samrang)

The Cambodia Daily Khmer media has announced a correction to their article for “adding quotes” to senior official human rights group Adhoc Soeng Senkaruna’s comment, which allegedly insulted the ruling CPP.

The correction came after CPP filed a lawsuit against Senkaruna for allegedly making a comment that might “provoke unrest and incite hatred against CPP, and could affect the upcoming Senate election” on February 25.

“Politicians’ disputes should be resolved politically, not settled via the court. All political parties should be mature when competing with each other, and stop the culture of threats against their own political partners to set an example for the next generation of politicians,” the Cambodia Daily Khmer posted on its Facebook page on Wednesday.

On February 2, The Daily published a story quoting Senkaruna that Candlelight Party vice president Son Chhay planned to sell his house to pay the $1 million damages. Senkaruna is alleged to have remarked that the CPP is a “party with a lot of financial resources”, thus the party should “tolerate Son Chhay”.

He was further quoted as saying that the ruling party has “always used the courts as a barrier to oppress its opposition political partners”.

NGO rights group Adhoc president Ny Sokha told CamboJA that his organization is retreating from commenting for a while, and is waiting to see the court process for the lawsuit.

Taing Sarada, chief anchor and correspondent at Cambodia Daily, did not respond to CamboJA’s message via Signal.

On Tuesday, the CPP issued a statement fully supporting the complaint against Senkaruna, which was filed by their lawyers with the Phnom Penh Municipal Court prosecutor.

“In countries around the world which uphold liberal democracy, pluralism, and rule of law, it is impossible not to enforce the law and the judiciary is there to resolve all disputes,” the statement read.

It added that Cambodia cannot mix political issues with legal issues or take refuge under the label of human rights or non-governmental organizations to cover up their illegal acts.

“In fact, slander, exaggeration and tarnishing the image, honor and dignity of individuals, politicians and political parties are not the right [of one] to express one’s opinion by law,” the CPP mentioned.

Political analyst Meas Nee expressed concern that the right to freedom of expression still remained tight.

“I can see that freedom of expression’s scope is very limited. In my experience, if I see 10 things, I can only do three to four things or less than that, especially to avoid directly criticizing the ruling party or powerful individuals,” he said.

He has noticed that there seems to be a principle in the ruling party where no one can criticize the party, especially by revealing names directly. They will take legal action for defamation or incitement. 

CPP spokesperson Sok Eysan said there is no compromise although the media outlet has corrected the article as the court is proceeding with the case.

“Before filing a complaint, we studied the facts and legal aspects […] we can’t move it [avoid the law],” he said. 

“There is a complaint with the court because you committed [an act] beyond [your] rights freedom of expression,” Eysan said, adding that any attack and damage to the honor and dignity of the Cambodian People’s Party cannot be tolerated. 

Phnom Penh Municipal Court deputy prosecutor Plang Sophal confirmed that the prosecutor is reviewing the complaint and evidence in the case file, and the procedure to continue in accordance with the law.