Monday, May 08, 2006

KR Tribunal Spokesman Denies Confirming List

By Whitney Kvasager and Yun Samean
The Cambodia Daily
Monday, May 8, 2006

Khmer Rouge tribunal officials have denied confirming a list of tribunal judges and prosecutors published on the Voice of America Web site on Thursday, claiming that a spokesman had been misquoted and that new rules would apply to access tribunal information.

Tribunal public affairs officer Peter Foster in an e-mail Sunday distanced himself from a newspaper that published an article on Friday in which he was quoted confirming that the VOA list of names was accurate.

“VOA tells us that is an accurate list. We have nothing official and cannot confirm the accuracy of the VOA list,” Foster wrote in the e-mail clarifying his report comments.

Foster added in the e-mail that the Public Affairs Office of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Court of Cambodia – the tribunal’s official name – has also implemented a new policy of accepting only written questions from Cambodia Daily reporters.

On Friday, the Cambodia Daily reported that Reach Sambath, the tribunal’s Cambodian public affairs officer, could neither confirm nor deny the accuracy of the VOA list.

The article did not quote Foster.

Foster referred requests for clarification about the new media policy to the ECCC’s Chief of Public Affairs Helen Jarvis.

Jarvis, an Australia who is now a Cambodian citizen and long-time adviser to CPP Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, said on Sunday that she would respond to questions about the new policy today.

Contacted earlier Sunday, Jarvis said that Foster was misquoted and that her office was not sending out conflicting messages to different newspapers.

“Obviously, we are three individuals. We are not speaking off a script,” she said, adding that she would now require all questions to be submitted to her personal e-mail account.

Legal analyst Lao Mong Hay questioned Jarvis’ impartiality Sunday afternoon, saying her strong links to the ruling CPP boded ill for access to information from the tribunal.

“She supports the government position,” he said. “She is not helping us to live in freedom. It is very unfortunate.”

Jarvis said late Sunday that she would not respond to Lao Mong Hay’s comments.

Sok Sam Oeun, executive director of the legal NGO Cambodian Defenders Project, said that transparency was important for the tribunal proceedings.

“It is better for the tribunal to be open sand give easy access,” he said. “All reporters must be allowed in and everybody should be treated equally.”

League of Cambodian Journalists President Chum Kanal said that many reporters in Cambodia could suffer if the Public Affairs Office policy of written requests for information extended to others.

“Some Cambodian reporters don’t have e-mail,” he said.

It is the second ruckus between the tribunal’s Public Affairs Office and members of the media.

In February, local and international’s journalists said that they were being prevented from joining several hundred villagers on a field trip to the tribunal courthouse, one of the first public events organized by tribunal officials.

The two-day trip involved torture victims, Buddhist nuns, students and researchers – any of whom may be called to testify – visiting Tuol Sleng prison, the Choeung Ek killing fields and the courthouse. The reported ban led to complaints by Youk Chhang, executive director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia. Public affairs officials later said there had been a miscommunication and that the press was not barred.

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