Independent groups representing journalists yesterday criticised as “intimidation” the posting of a reporter’s passport photograph by Information Minister Khieu Kanharith, following a complaint against the journalist and his colleague by a commune chief and villagers in Ratanakkiri province.
Kanharith on Tuesday uploaded a photograph of Cambodia Daily reporter Zsombor Peter’s passport along with a warning for journalists to follow election laws and media ethics while covering the two-week campaign period preceding the June 4 commune elections.
His post followed a complaint on Monday against Peter and reporter Aun Pheap. The complaint stated the pair had asked questions about politics while interviewing residents in O’Yadav district’s Pate commune. The events listed in the complaint did not suggest either reporter had breached any specific rules or journalism ethics.
In a statement on Facebook yesterday, the Overseas Press Club of Cambodia condemned the minister’s actions.
“The OPCC condemns the lack of due process that led to a reporter’s identity to be shared in a potentially dangerous and defamatory way,” read the statement, which called for the information’s removal.
Speaking on Tuesday, Kanharith said he was just “reminding” reporters to follow the relevant laws on reporting the election. He said his sharing of the passport photo information did not breach any law.
It did, however, violate Facebook’s own Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, which tells users “You will not post anyone’s identification documents or sensitive financial information on Facebook”.
The Union of Journalist Federations of Cambodia – whose leader Huy Vannak is affiliated with the government – weighed in yesterday on the matter and appeared to take the side of the complainants, claiming that asking people who they were voting for was a violation of political rights and confidential voting.
However, Southeast Asian Press Alliance Executive Director Edgardo Legaspi said: “The complaint doesn’t appear to be anything egregious,” Legaspi said. “[This is] intimidation using their rules in their favour to gain political advantage.