Mondulkiri reporter summoned over ‘defamation’ interview

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Journalist Sath Chanbuth (right) was ordered to appear before Mondulkiri Provincial Court on allegations of incitement and defamation stemming from an interview earlier this year. Photo supplied

The Mondulkiri provincial court arraigned a journalist working for Rasmei Kampuchea Daily and Apsara TV to appear for questioning for defamation and incitement in line with a lawsuit filed by a Lieutenant Colonel.

A summons signed by deputy prosecutor Mam Vanda, dated November 19 and obtained by The Post on Thursday, ordered journalist Sath Chanbuth, 34, of Keo Seima district to appear for questioning on Monday.

“The letter is about a case with the plaintiff Sophat Serivuthy, represented by his lawyer Seng Singheng, [who sued Chanbuth] for defamation and incitement in July and August this year. Chanbuth must show up on time and bring relevant documents if available,” the letter read.

Chanbuth said he would appear for the questioning and is in the process of preparing legal documents related to the case. ’

The lawsuit follows after Chanbuth posted a video from his interview with an ethnic group who accused Serivuthy of trying to plant fence posts in an attempt to grab their land in O’Raing district’s Dak Dam commune.

Serivuthy’s assistant was said to have called Chanbuth to take down the video but the latter refused.

“I will tell the court the truth about the claims against Serivuthy and the indigenous people will come and support me. They are my witnesses,” said Chanbuth, “but I am also concerned because I am afraid that the court will not investigate the case thoroughly”.

According to Singheng, Chanbuth went to the site of the land conflict and wrongly reported that his client had up to 40ha from grabbing the people’s land.

“Actually, my client has only 2ha which he bought legally in 2005. He did not grab the land,” he claimed.

Moeun Chhean Nariddh, the director of the Cambodian Institute for Journalism, told The Post that if Chanbuth did report the truth, he should not be worried and should instead try to gather reliable documents that would help him in court.

However, if he reported falsely or defamed others, he should correct his statement or release an apology addressed to the plaintiff.

Chhean Nariddh said the parties should not bring the case to court over a little mistake as it might be seen as a threat to other journalists. Nevertheless, Chhean Nariddh said the victim has a right to justice if the report was false.

Serivuthy could not be reached for comment.