Reporter questions KRT appointment

[This was sent to the Cambodia Daily on June 2, 2011, in response to an article in which the paper’s KRT correspondent suggested that having expressed a public opinion disqualified a journalist who had just been appointed as the court’s public affairs spokesperson. It was not published by the Daily.]

Douglas Gillison (“Tribunal Hires Media Rep With Partisan Views”, June 2) seems to believe that Neth Pheaktra’s having written an editorial expressing a view on Khmer Rouge tribunal cases 003 and 004 should disqualify him from serving as public affairs spokesperson for the court.

But Mr Gillison has also expressed strong editorial views on the matter, although he does so within what are labeled as news articles. For example, on May 23 he wrote that case 003 “was precipitously closed on April 29.” He thus accuses the co-investigating judges of something “done in excessive haste; rash, unthinking” (Oxford English Dictionary). Aside from his opinion, Mr Gillison also got his facts wrong. Far from the case having been closed on April 29, the closing order has not yet been issued.

On May 30, Mr Gillison began a front-page article by declaring that international co-prosecutor Andrew Cayley was “[a]rguing for principle and fairness” when he appealed against “the actions of [the court’s] investigating judges, who sought to censure him earlier this month”. In addition to endorsing Mr Cayley’s position, Mr Gillison again got his facts wrong; the judges had ordered the co-prosecutor to retract his May 9 statement, not “sought to censure him”.

Mr Gillison has the bad habit of dressing up his editorial opinions with the word “reportedly”, without mentioning any source of these “reports”. For example, on May 27: “Both Judge Blunk and Judge Bunleng have reportedly agreed to dismiss cases 003 and 004 without investigation.” Mr Cayley has said that the co-investigating judges’ investigation did not cover several aspects that he thought it should cover, not that they hadn’t conducted any investigation. If Mr Gillison knows of a source which claims that the judges have not investigated at all, perhaps he should inform the readers, so that they can judge the quality of the “reports” that Mr Gillison refers to.

Does Mr Gillison think that he can be an effective reporter despite having publicly taken sides in the controversy?

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