Online Journalist in Kampong Thom province detained on extortion charge
Seoun Sochea, an online reporter for TNM, was arrested on May 10 by the Kampong Thom military police and taken into custody on charges of extortion.
Sem Bora, the publisher of TNM, told CamboJA that Sochea had only started working for the outlet in 2021 while the charge dated back to 2020. Bora said that the charges against Sochea stemmed from a series of reports he had written about illegal logging in Kampong Thom province.
Bora acknowledged that Sochea had received $10 from Heng Ny, a timber dealer, but said that this should not be considered extortion. "Heng Ny gave Sochea some money, but Sochea did not extort her," Bora said. "As far as I know, he received just about $10 each time."
Bora added that Kampong Thom authorities had warned Sochea and his media outlet on several occasions not to report on illegal logging and environmental issues.
On May 12, 2023, TNM's publisher wrote a letter to the Minister of Information, seeking intervention. The letter stated that three timber dealers and an environmental official had sued Sochea for publishing false information, incitement, and extortion committed in 2020, even though Sochea had not yet started working as a reporter for TNM at that time.
"This is an act that intimidates journalists who dare to report the truth in Kampong Thom province, because it threatens the interests of the environmental officials and timber dealers who benefit from illegal logging," the letter said.
Sochea was released on bail on June 1, after he apologized and acknowledged that his report had not been properly verified.