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Jailed Journalist Seeks To Apologize

Hang Chakra, who is facing a yearlong jail term for defamation charges, has said in a letter he would like to apologize to a senior minister implicated in corruption by his newspaper.

Editor of the Khmer Mchas Srok newspaper, Hang Chakra was sentenced in July and fined 9 million riel, about $2,250, after publishing reports on alleged corruption at the powerful Council of Ministers, which is headed by Deputy Prime Minister Sok An.

Phay Siphan, a spokesman for the Council of Ministers, said officials had received the letter and would provide it to Sok An on Monday.

In the letter, according to Phay Siphan, Hang Chakra “accepted the mistake of disinformation and expressed his regret for improperly writing some text in his newspaper, affecting the honor of Deputy Prime Minister Sok An.”

“He accepts his wrongdoing and requests a pardon,” Phay Siphan said.

Hang Chakra’s arrest and imprisonment came in July amid increasing concern the courts were used to punish government dissenters, after two opposition parliamentarians, Mu Sochua and Ho Vann, had their immunity stripped and another opposition journalist, Dam Sith, vowed to close his own newspaper rather than face similar charges.

Phay Siphan said Friday Hang Chakra should have apologized before his sentencing, because the government is interested in seeing information that follows a professional code of conduct.

Now, he said, “Prime Minister Hun Sen has the right to get Hang Chakra’s apology letter to request the king to pardon him.”

Journalist associations in August requested King Norodom Sihamoni pardon the jailed editor, with no result.