Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Friday sentenced a former monk to 18 months in prison after he was found guilty of incitement for airing fake news about disputes among government officials on his YouTube account.
Judge Pich Vicheathor identified him as 24-year-old Voeun Kimlon. He said Mr Kimlon was found guilty of “incitement to commit a felony”.
“The court has decided to convict and sentence the accused Voeun Kimlon to one year and six months in jail,” Judge Vicheathor said. “He has 30 days to appeal to a higher court if he does not agree.”
During Mr Kimlon’s trial earlier this month, deputy court prosecutor Seng Heang said Mr Kimlon started airing fake news about disputes between Prime Minister Hun Sen and Interior Minister Sar Kheng in 2017, and it continued after the suspect launched his YouTube channel “Daily Hot News” in 2018.
Mr Heang said Mr Kimlon also aired fake news about journalists and villagers killed by soldiers and Mr Hun Sen ordering the armed forces to use tanks to charge at Sam Rainsy and his supporters.
“He posted fake news about disputes between our country’s leaders on his YouTube channel,” Mr Heang said. “The fake news he aired caused turmoil, instability and insecurity in the country – the fake news he aired also affected peace and public order in the country.”
After he was sentenced, Mr Kimlon said the judgement was unjust and he will file an appeal with the Appeal Court to have his sentence reduced and suspended.
“I think the sentence was heavy because I already confessed about my crimes to police and the court,” he said.
“I only uploaded fake news on YouTube to attract more hits and get more revenue from Google so that I can support my poor family,” Mr Kimlon added. “I did not intend to go against the Royal Government or cause turmoil, instability and insecurity in the country.”
Mr Kimlon during the hearing earlier this month said he committed the offence, but noted that he did not know it was a crime.
He said he was an impoverished monk with seven siblings to support. He decided to launch the channel in 2017 after learning how to edit photos, post on Twitter and write on blog sites from his friends who told him that income could be earned from Google, YouTube’s parent company.
He said when he first started, he was able to earn $50 per month from Google. However, as viewership increased, he was able to earn up to $2,000 per month.
Mr Kimlon noted that between 2017 and the day of his arrest, he had received more than $20,000 from Google. The money went to his wedding and family expenditures.