Phnom Penh Post
(A comment from Phnom Post Editor and Publisher Michael Hayes after the government announced they had filed criminal complaints against him and the paper for an article "Security jitters while the PM's away" charging the paper with "disinformation, incitement and creating insecurity and instability." They demanded to know the names of my sources. The Phnom Penh Post was a courageous and ground breaking factor in emerging expression of peaceful dissent and debating public policy--a concept long unfamiliar to the country.)
Friday, 08 September 1995 14:00
S INCE the announcement by the Ministry of Information (MOI) that a complaint had been lodged against me for an article we ran entitled "Security jitters while PMs away," written by Nate Thayer (PPPost: March 24, l995), our office has received dozens of inquiries from around the world and here in Cambodia on the situation vis-a-vis this case.
For readers who may not have seen any of the various news stories, the situation - in brief - is as follows:
The initial public announcement was made by the MOI on August 24.
According to an MOI spokesman, Leng Sochea, the government has filed a complaint with the municipal court asking them to press criminal charges against me, as publisher of the PPPost, for disinformation, incitement and creating insecurity and instability.
If tried and convicted, I could be fined and possibly jailed. As well, the PPPost could be closed down permanently.
Government lawyer Kao Bun Hong, on behalf of the two Prime Ministers, filed the complaint in a letter dated April 21, although it is not known when the court officially received the letter. A court official has said a judge is investigating the case to decide whether to press charges under Article 62 - dis-information - of the UNTAC Press Law.
Under current Cambodian law the court has six months to review the case and decide whether this or other charges will be brought against me, or none at all.
As a part of the court's investigation into the case I can be called in to answer questions before a final decision is made on prosecution.
To date, I have not been officially notified in writing by the court that the investigation is proceeding or that I will be summoned to answer questions, or whether or not I will be prosecuted.
I'm pleased to note with gratitude that in a faxed response to a letter of concern about this situation from Julio Jeldres, H.M. King Norodom Sihanouk wrote on August 25 that while he could not change the course of the case, His Majesty "shall, however, have the right and the duty to grant an amnesty to the journalists sentenced."
In a meeting I had with Kao Bun Hong on September 2, I was told that the government wanted to know who the unnamed sources were cited in the story.
According to the recently passed press law, which was signed into law by Assembly President and Acting Head of State Chea Sim on August 31, journalists are protected by law from having to reveal their sources.
In the absence of any official written notification on this case from either the government or the court, I have been refraining from making any statements to the press except to say that I stand behind the accuracy of the story in question.
Readers will be kept abreast of any significant developments regarding this case. Many, many, many thanks to all those, both within the RGC and without, who have expressed their support in the last two weeks.