Eight journalists filed a joint complaint with the Ministry of Information, the Union of Journalist Federations of Cambodia and the Club of Cambodian Journalists seeking justice after police held them overnight – a violation of freedom of the press and civil rights.
The police action followed SK Plantation (Cambodia) Pte Ltd which has taken up a legal case against them.
Ly Sovannara, a journalist from Hang Meas HDTV told The Post on Thursday that on March 20, he and seven others from different media organisations went to Ratanakkiri Province’s Hatpak village in Hatpak commune, Veun Sai district, to cover a story.
Coincidently, villagers were holding a traditional ceremony and weren’t allowing outsiders to enter. If they did, they would be punished according to the village rules.
Having heard this, the group of journalists left the village and continued going to other places. Far away from it, the group asked a passerby for directions. The passerby told them to go to the district. The group continued their journey as they were told until they entered the property of SK Group.
Sovannara said the company did not have a fence or a “no entry without permission” sign.
“We didn’t intend to enter the property. But upon arriving there, [we] asked someone inside for permission to enter.
We asked him if we could go to the main road or cross Kon Mom district. He answered that they could. But he said to wait to meet with the foreman first and then we could go.
“We waited for about two hours, and then the foreman arrived and allowed us to write our names and phone numbers. When completing the form, we asked the foreman, ‘Can we go now?’ He answered that we cannot. Wait for a moment,” Sovannara said.
About two hours later, Kon Mom district police forces took them to the district police station as the company sued them for entering its premise without permission.
The police held them overnight and the next morning released them after they were made to sign a contract agreeing to stop entering the premise without permission.
Sovannara said: “The company damaged the honour and freedom of the press and civil rights.”
Kon Mom district police chief Pok Borith told The Post on Thursday that his officers took the group in for questioning at 6pm.
By the time the questioning was over, it was late at night. Unable to complete the procedure that night, the police detained the group for questioning until morning, when they were released.
He said: “They were detained as per official procedure. The group was brought in for questioning, but we didn’t conclude questioning them yet.
“If we wanted to release them at night, first it is late. Secondly, we would have allowed them to wander the streets aimlessly. If they had been hit by a motorcycle or car or met with any danger, it would become our mistake.”
He said with the help of the provincial court prosecutor, a company’s representative asked them to stop entering the premise without permission. The eight promised that in the future should they enter the premise, they must have permission. The matter ended after they were released.
Ministry of Information spokesman Phos Sovann could not be reached for comment on Thursday.
However, Pok Borith claimed that the company filed the complaint after they had entered the premise without permission, and they didn’t even have press IDs. The company was so worried about the spread of Covid-19 that the workers held them.
The company’s representative could not be reached for comment on Thursday. But in the complaint thumb-printed by the company’s representative, Ben Vong said on March 20: “[The company] sued the eight journalists for entering my company’s premise without permission. ”