The Pursat Provincial Court on Thursday charged four journalists working as information agents for the National Police with fraud for allegedly extorting money from the owner of a gasoline station in Bakan district.
Court spokesman Heng Donin said the four journalists were charged under articles 377 and 378 of the Criminal Code for the alleged crime in Snam Preah commune’s Kompeng Svay village on August 19.
According to the law, they face jail terms of up to three years and fines between 1 and 6 million riel ($250 to $1,500).
The four journalists were identified as Em Sovisal, 31, working for TNC News; Rum Ratha, 31, with NTC news; Thong Kimnguon, 40, from PCN news in Battambang; and Em Sovisith, 31, the publisher of CPN news.
Tan Seihak Dechak, the provincial court prosecutor, said the investigative judge was now questioning the suspects.
Provincial police chief Major General Sarun Chanthy said his officers arrested the four men in Krakor district following a complaint from the owner of the Tela gasoline station.
“Our police officers took them in for questioning at the Krakor district police station on Monday evening,” Chanthy said. “The gasoline station owner accused them of demanding between $200 and $300 after claiming to be officers from the National Police.”
The National Police’s private security management department issued a letter on Thursday to say that the four journalists had been working for the department as information agents but were not police officers.
The department used information agents to maintain security and safety in society, it said.
“The private security management department never allows information agents to extort money from residents,” it said. “Those people were not national police officials but information agents, so their activities must to correspond with the law.”
Pen Bona, president of the Club of Cambodian Journalists, said the four journalists’ alleged crimes were a matter for the courts to handle.
“If they committed the crime, please enforce the law. But if they did not commit the crime, please release them,” Bona said.
Information Ministry spokesman Ouk Kimseng added that the case did not involve mistakes in reporting or publishing and was the concern of police and the courts.