The Voice of America is concerned about a legal warning issued in connection with VOA coverage of the U.N.-backed tribunal in Cambodia that has been investigating atrocities committed by the former Khmer Rouge regime.
On August 31, the Co-Investigating Judges at the U.N.-backed Cambodian tribunal announced they had instituted “contempt of court” proceedings related to the VOA Khmer Service reports. The unsigned statement from the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, cited VOA’s use of confidential court documents in a report broadcast on August 10 that identified potential new defendants.
The statement said proceedings had been instituted for “Interference with the Administration of Justice” after VOA “quoted verbatim from a confidential document” and “even showed that document on a video.”
The statement went on to say, “Anyone intending further disclosure of confidential court documents is hereby warned that his case could be transferred to the National Prosecutor pursuant to Rule 35 (2) (c).”
Voice of America is concerned about the potential “chilling effect” this threat by the co-investigating judges could have on coverage of an important international story. Some rights groups have accused judges at the tribunal of failing to fully investigate cases brought by prosecutors.
Voice of America believes the warning issued by the co-investigating judges is unwarranted. The Voice of America has a journalistic and legal responsibility to provide balanced and comprehensive coverage of important issues. The careful use of confidential sources and documents that provide important insight into critical issues is a well-established practice by independent journalists the world over. Furthermore, the documents in question have been used by other news organizations.
Voice of America and its Khmer Service are committed to providing accurate, objective and comprehensive coverage of the ongoing investigation into Khmer Rouge atrocities and issues of importance to the people of the region and the world.