Pursat Provincial Court yesterday charged four journalists who allegedly posed as National Police officers to extort money from the owner of a gasoline station in Bakan district.
Heng Donin, court spokesman, identified them as Em Sovisal, 31, working for TNC News, Rum Ratha, 31, with NTC news, Thong Kimnguon, 40, from PCN news in Battambang, and Em Sovisith, 31, the publisher of CPN news.
He noted that they were arrested on Tuesday and the court charged them with fraud under articles 377 and 378 of the criminal code.
“All four journalists were charged with fraud which they allegedly committed in the district’s Snam Preah commune on August 19,” Mr Donin said.
According to the law, all four face up to three years in prison and fines from about $245 to about $1,469 each if convicted.
Tan Seihak Dechak, court prosecutor, yesterday said Mr Sovisal, Mr Ratha, Mr Kimnguon and Mr Sovisith were charged by the deputy prosecutor and have been sent to the investigating judge for questioning.
Major General Sarun Chanthy, provincial police chief, on Wednesday said his officers cooperated with local police and arrested the four in Krakor district on Monday following a complaint from the owner of a Tela Gasoline Station in the province.
“Our police officers took them in for questioning at the Krakor district police station on Monday evening,” Maj Gen Chanthy said. “The gasoline station owner accused them of demanding between $200 and $300 after claiming to be officers from the National Police.”
The National Police’s Private Security Management Department yesterday issued a statement saying that the four journalists were working as its agents but had posed as officers.
It noted that some people on social media had distorted the issue and sullied the name and reputations of the department and its director Lieutenant General Lim Sokhareaksmey.
The statement said the department uses agents to maintain security and order but does not allow them use its name to commit crimes.
“Those four journalists are not national police officers but informers, and they must not break the law,” it said. “The department has never allowed informers to extort money from the public.”
Ouk Kim Seng, Information Ministry spokesman, on Wednesday said that although the case does not involve falling foul of the law through writing or publishing an article, it was still a crime allegedly committed by journalists.
“Journalists need to avoid taking part in activities that impact the public,” he said. “Remember we are journalists and need to strictly follow our code of ethics.”