A journalist in Mondulkiri province has been summoned for questioning after a military officer complained that his reporting about a land dispute with an indigenous family was defamatory.
The Mondulkiri Provincial Court on Nov. 19 issued a summons for Sat Chanbut, who works for Apsara Television and newspaper Rasmey Kampuchea, to appear on Dec. 2 over a defamation and incitement complaint.
The complaint was filed by Sophat Sereivuthy, a colonel in the Defense Ministry, and his lawyer Seng Singheng for alleged offenses in July and August.
Singheng said Chanbut had accused Sereivuthy in both television and print reportsof being in a dispute with an indigenous family over 40 hectares in O’Raing district’s Dakdam commune.
However, Sereivuthy had only 2 hectares in the commune, Singheng said.
“My client did not occupy the land of an indigenous family because he has a land certificate,” he added.
“We want him to issue a correction and apologize,” he said.
Chanbut said his video report on the land dispute was done professionally and ethically.
The indigenous family had claimed that Sereivuthy built fences on land that belonged to them, Chanbut said.
“They want to pressure me to stop broadcasting about that case,” he said. “I will go to the court on Dec. 2 to clarify the case because I’ve prepared some documents about the land,” showing the disputed area was more than 30 hectares.
Court spokesman Mam Vanda, who issued the summons, said the court would try to verify Chanbut’s reports.
“It’s import whether the information he published is true or not,” Vanda said.
Eang Mengly, rights group Adhoc’s coordinator in Mondulkiri, said that he would monitor how the court processes the case, and argued it should be resolved under the Press Law rather than the Criminal Code.
“Using the court system seems too harsh and puts pressure on journalists,” Mengly said.