Cambodian Journalists Alliance Association

Flock of journalists nabbed over illegal cock fight

A man reads news on his smartphone of arresting journalists during cock fighting raid in Phnom Penh on Wednesday. Panha Chhorpoan

Thirteen journalists were among 27 people arrested for attending a cock fight in Phnom Penh on Sunday, with police saying that they did not believe the group was only there to gather information for news stories on the illegal activity.

Municipal police raided an empty plot of land on Duong Ngiep Road in Meanchey district’s Stung Meanchey district at about 3:30 p.m., according to a post on the National Police website. They detained 27 suspects and seized five roosters — two of which had died — as well as cock-fighting equipment, the report said.

The arrested journalists worked for ten low-profile news sites, including “Preah Chan Kampuchea”, “Khmer Popular News”, “RAKY News” and “SNT News”.

Meanchey district police chief Meng Vimeandara declined to comment on the arrests. However, deputy municipal police chief Kim Kalyan said the group were caught red-handed in an illegal activity — but that they would be released due to what he described as the government’s general good will toward journalists.

“According to the principles from the higher-level that is forgiving toward these journalists, they will be allowed to go home on Tuesday evening after they have been educated,” Kalyan said, declining to comment further on the principles.

Preah Chan Kampuchea owner Pat Sok said one of his reporters, Pheng Sovannreaksmey, was among those arrested. He said he believed the group was targeted because of their past reporting, which he said scared the police.

“I conclude this was organized by the authorities to arrest those journalists because the journalists can disseminate information that affects the authorities,” Sok said, declining to provide any evidence to support the claims.

Information Ministry spokesman Meas Sophorn said his ministry would monitor the case because it involved journalists. But he said if they committed a crime in their personal capacities, there would be no involvement from the ministry.

“The ministry is reviewing, and will be following, this case,” Sophorn said.

Club of Cambodian Journalists (CCJ) spokesman Khieu Kola echoed Sophorn’s sentiments and said his club would only intervene if the journalists were, in fact, reporting on the cock-fighting ring, rather than participating in the gambling.

“If they did anything based on journalistic professionalism, we will support them,” Kola said. “But if they did not respect journalistic professionalism [at the cock fight] or the media law, the authorities can take action according to the law.”

Kola said that Sok, the Preah Chan Kampuchea editor, should come forward to his group with evidence if he could prove the police had done anything nefarious.

Cambodia Journalists Alliance (CamboJA) executive director Nop Vy also said that even though 13 among the 27 arrested were journalists, they should still be treated like anyone else and take responsibility if they had committed a crime.

However, he said that the authorities should investigate the case properly.

“I ask for the authorities to please research and investigate clearly about this case before they decide to send them to the courts,” Vy said, explaining it was possible the journalists were in fact at the cock fight as part of their “jobs.” 

Vy said that it was also a common practice for some small-time journalists to try to extort minor amounts of money from people who they knew were taking part in illegal activities — in exchange for not reporting on them in their news.

“If so, the authorities should not arrest them, as they have just made a mistake within the journalist profession. They should be educated or advised by relevant institutions to let them strengthen their journalistic ethics and professionalism.”

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