The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Wednesday found one-time RT news fixer Rath Rott Mony guilty and convicted him to two years in prison with a fine of up to $16,000.
Mony, 47, was arrested and charged with “incitement to discriminate” in 2018 after RT released a documentary called “My Mother Sold Me,” which irritated Cambodian top leaders.
Presiding judge Koy Sao, however, announced Wednesday that the court had enough evidence and witnesses to prove Mony’s guilt.
“First, Rath Rott Mony is sentenced to two years in prison on charges of incitement to discriminate in relation to the film My Mother Sold Me … committed in 2018 and ordered to pay compensation amounting to 35 million riels [over $8,000] to each plaintiffs—Tep Salim and Keo Malay,” Judge Koy Sao said, adding that the two parties may appeal the verdict.
Thouk Rath, 69, Rath Rott Mony’s father, told VOA Khmer that the verdict proves injustice for his son because he should not have been brought to court for his role.
“It seems to be an injustice because the story belongs to others,” he said, referring to the documentary film produced by RT.
Keo Malay, one of the five plaintiffs who was portrayed in “My Mother Sold Me” said she would not appeal against the verdict but declined to give any further comments.
Yi Soksan, senior monitoring officer of local rights group Adhoc, told VOA Khmer that Mony will appeal the verdict. Soksan said Mony is being victimized in his role as a journalist and translator for RT (formerly Russia Today).
“He worked like a contractor, which means he would get paid based on [the amount of his work] so it’s not his responsibility for airing the film,” he said.
After the verdict was announced, Human Rights Watch issued a statement demanding that “the conviction of Mony should be quashed immediately, and he should be released to join his wife and young son.”
Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch in Asia, said the court case against Mony is an “affront to media freedom” and he was just a fixer and translator for RT.
“The push to imprison Mony is an example of Cambodia playing 'shoot the messenger' of a person who told the international community about an inconvenient reality the government wants to hide, that the sex industry in Cambodia includes girls under 18 and the government officials are failing to adequately act to address it,” he said.
Meanwhile, Reporters Without Borders condemned the “iniquitous conclusion” to a “sham” trail of Mony and called for his conviction to be overturned on appeal because of all the inconsistencies in the case against him.