Stung Treng court urged to apply press law over libel suit against reporter

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Lawmaker Bou Lam (right). FACEBOOK

The Union of Journalist Federations of Cambodia (UJFC) on Wednesday called on the Stung Treng Provincial Court to apply the Press Law in a case involving a Ratanakkiri province parliamentarian and a TV journalist.

Lawmaker Bou Lam has sued PNN reporter Lorn Vanna for defamation, demanding $160,000 in compensation, in relation to a land dispute in Ratanakkiri province’s Veun Sai district.

He referred his complaint to the Stung Treng Provincial Court after the Ratanakkiri Provincial Court rejected it.

In a statement released on Wednesday, the UJFC said the legal tussle stemmed from a lack of understanding of the Press Law and urged the court to use it as the basis when proceeding with the case.

UJFC president Huy Vannak told The Post on Thursday that the case was trivial and could easily be solved should the Press Law be applied.

“It would be a relief if the court refers to the Press Law. If both sides understand the Press Law, they could reach a compromise easily. End of story,” he said.

The court issued a summons dated September 16 ordering Vanna to appear for questioning on Wednesday. Deputy prosecutor Kim Hongsan said he was unaware of the case.

Vanna confirmed to The Post on Thursday that he had testified before a court clerk on Wednesday.

He echoed UJFC’s calls for the court to apply the Press Law, saying his news report was based on an interview with Veun Sai district governor Heng Savoeun and a field visit to the site where Lam was accused of clearing 114ha of community forest land.

“We broadcast our interview with the district governor. He is not an ordinary villager but the one who governs the entire district.

“What he told us was a news story, so there’s nothing wrong with our broadcast. The complaint also has no legal substance because we are reporters. A libel suit is uncalled for,” he said.

In his letter to the UJFC on Tuesday, Vanna said he had already broadcast Lam’s clarification and denial of his involvement in the land dispute on his request.

But he said the lawmaker later demanded he broadcast an apology for seven consecutive days. Vanna refused, prompting the lawmaker to file a lawsuit demanding $160,000 in compensation.

Lam declined to provide a comment on Thursday.

The Press Law, enacted in 1995, requires a news institution to make a correction or clarification if it should publish wrong information due to confusion or unintentionally.