Preah Sihanouk Provincial Court on Tuesday granted bail to two journalists accused of incitement.
Hun Sokha, president of the Club of Independent Journalists, and Keo Ratana, publisher of TN Online, were arrested on Friday after they covered a land dispute in Sihanoukville’s Bei commune.
Five other people were arrested that day. They were identified as Hang Sophea, Hang Chenda, Sen Leakhena, Pen Sinath and Heng Yorng.
Court spokesman Lim Bun Heng said while the journalists were given bail, the five were sent to pre-trial detention.
“After questioning concluded on the evening of July 23, the investigating judge decided to put Hun Sokha and Keo Ratana under court supervision,” Mr Bun Heng said, noting that the five were sent to Preah Sihanouk Provincial Prison.
On Tuesday, Mr Bun Heng said the seven were handed multiple charges by the provincial court.
“The five were charged with using violence against a property owner, incitement to commit a felony and extortion,” he said. “While the two journalists were charged with incitement to commit a felony, incitement through journalism and accomplice of violence against a property owner.”
A letter signed by CIJ deputy president Leang Sopheak on Saturday called on Information Minister Khieu Kanharith to intervene in the case.
Mr Sopheak said Mr Sokha and Mr Ratana were accused of committing the crimes after they were doing their job taking video footage of a land dispute in Muoy village.
He said both journalists were doing their jobs and left the scene without an incident, noting that they were arrested when they collected information in front of Provincial Hall.
Mr Sopheak said two men in civilian clothing arrested them and took them to the provincial military police headquarters.
“Please, information minister, intervene to free the two journalists,” he said in the letter.
CIJ secretary general Sieng Buntong yesterday said dozens of journalists from Preah Sihanouk province were planning to submit a petition for intervention to Information Minister Khieu Kanharith, but the plan was scrapped after learning the two were released on bail.
Mr Buntong said he will discuss the case with Mr Sokha and Mr Ratana before sending the petition.
“Even though we are happy and welcome the court’s decision to release Mr Sokha and Mr Ratana on bail, the CIJ will hold a meeting on this case to decide what to do next tomorrow [today],” he said.