Rath Rott Mony, a former Russia Today news fixer, yesterday in court pleaded not guilty to incitement to discriminate over his role in the production of sex trafficking documentary.
On December 13, Phnom Penh Municipal Court charged Mr Roth Mony with incitement to discriminate for aiding RT’s production of the “My Mother Sold Me” film, which was dismissed as fake news by the government.
Mr Rott Mony yesterday said he could not accept the charge.
“I do not accept the charge against me because I was just a translator and a news fixer,” he said.
Broadcast in October online, the “My Mother Sold Me” film told the story of a young girl whose virginity was reportedly sold by her mother.
After it went viral, the mother and daughter featured in it retracted their statements after being questioned by police as the government dismissed it as fake news.
Mr Rott Mony yesterday also denied producing the film and coercing his sources into admitting that they were sold by their mothers.
Judge Kouy Sao then proceeded to read the testimony of plaintiff Eng Sreymich, who was featured in the film and later retracted her statements.
Judge Sao said Ms Sreymich, who was not in court yesterday, met Mr Rott Mony through an acquaintance.
He said that Ms Sreymich was told that Mr Rott Mony wanted to make a documentary about poverty.
Judge Sao said Ms Sreymich said she was falsely coerced to say that her virginity was sold. He noted that Ms Sreymich is demanding $10,000 in compensation.
Mr Rott Mony reiterated that he was only a translator.
“At the time, I just translated in front of the camera without pre-organising scenes or ordering sources what to say,” he said. “What the sources said was the truth.”
Sam Titseyha, Mr Rott Mony’s defence lawyer, said he was disappointed that the plaintiffs did not appear before the court.
“All the plaintiffs were absent and my client lost the right to question the plaintiffs,” Mr Titseyha said. “So we have requested that the plaintiffs be summoned.”
“We have seen no evidence to inculpate my client,” he added. “I hope the court will consider setting him free.”
Mr Rott Mony and his family had briefly fled to Thailand after the film caught the attention of the goverment in order to seek asylum in the Netherlands before Thai officials detained and deported him back to Cambodia.
Family and friends of Mr Rott Mony in February rallied in front of the Russian embassy for the fourth time to demand its intervention to gain his freedom.
His wife Long Kimheang called on Russia to lobby the government to have her husband released.
“We will hold protests with placards, asking for intervention from Russian government to Cambodian government,” Ms Kimheang said at the time. “We will come every week until my husband is released.”
Ms Kimheang also urged the Russians to publicly stand by Russia Today and the accuracy of the documentary.
“My husband was just a news fixer who abetted the production. Russian RT crews were in charge of the documentary, they must prove his innocence and the government should have questioned them,” she said.
Ms Kimheang also met with UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Cambodia Rhona Smith while she was in the Kingdom recently.
“I told her the documentary clearly reflected the real lives of those featured in the film who later retracted their statements over the loss of their daughters’ virginities because they feared arrest,” Ms Kimheang said after her meeting.
RT has maintained that it would “never prompt ‘acting’ or misrepresentations of any kind” in its work and that suggestions the stories were fake news “undermine a legitimate focus on the real problem of Cambodia’s sex industry”.
The trial will continue on June 12.