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Cambodia 31 August 2006

Officials ban French filmmaker from leaving in bid to extort money

Reporters Without Borders today condemned the action of Cambodian officials in banning French journalist and film-maker Daniel Laine from leaving the country in an attempt to make him comply with an undertaking he signed under duress during a previous trip to Cambodia in 2003 promising to send them 125,000 dollars (97,500 euros) on his return to France.

The money was supposedly to be shared with a French citizen who sued Laine over a documentary he made that year about sex tourism in Cambodia.

“The agreement has no legal value because Laine was forced to sign it,” Reporters Without Borders said. “His documentary just portrayed a reality and that does not attack a country’s dignity. The current proceedings against him are unacceptable and constitute a form of institutional extortion. The agreement he signed under duress must be invalidated and the ban on his leaving the country must be lifted.”

In his 2003 documentary “Investigation into sex tourism abuses,” Laine showed a fellow French citizen who had signed a broadcast release. Although his face was pixilated and his voice was distorted when it was broadcast on the French TV station TF1, the film’s French subject was recognised by his family.

Corrupt Cambodian officials encouraged the French citizen to file a complaint against Laine and TF1 accusing them of “broadcasting false information”and a “report banned by the authorities. It was while he was in Cambodia at the end of December 2003, a few months after the documentary was aired, that Laine signed the agreement under duress.

On his return to France, Laine filed a complaint with a court in Créteil. A complaint was also filed on his behalf with a court in Phnom Penh.

Laine found himself banned from leaving the country when he recently went to back to Cambodia to present a feature film he had made. The authorities accused him of having a forged passport and at the same time demanded payment of the 125,000 dollars. The French authorities confirmed that his passport was authentic, but the ban on his leaving the country is still in place. He now faces the possibility of being place in custody while the Phnom Penh municipal court reaches a decision on his case.

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