Journos: Drop RFA charges

The Phnom Penh Post - - NATIONAL - Long Kim­marita

SOME 40 lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional jour­nal­ists from sev­eral me­dia out­lets in Cam­bo­dia re­leased an open let­ter on Thursday, call­ing for the court to drop charges against two for­mer Ra­dio Free Asia (RFA) re­porters.

The call comes fol­low­ing the re­lease of jour­nal­ists Uon Chhin and Yeang Sot­hearin on bail in Au­gust, with the pair re­main­ing un­der court su­per­vi­sion on es­pi­onage charges.

The pair were orig­ina lly ar­rested on Novem­ber 14, 2017, wit h po­lice ini­tia lly say ing t hey de­tained t hem for al­legedly run­ning an un­li­censed karaoke pro­duc­tion stu­dio.

The Min­istry of In­te­rior later con­firmed they were be­ing in­ves­ti­gated for al­legedly set­ting up an RFA broad­cast stu­dio, which had been banned by the govern­ment a month ear­lier.

“We are very con­cerned over the se­ri­ous charges against Uon Chhin and Yeang Sot­hearin. In ad­di­tion, putting them un­der the court’s su­per­vi­sion makes it hard for them to live and con­tinue their ca­reers as jour­nal­ists.

“They can’t move to live in an­other place with­out per­mis­sion from the in­ves­ti­gat­ing judge, can’t travel abroad, and must show up at a com­mune po­lice sta­tion ev­ery month,” the let­ter, dated Jan­uary 10, read.

The let­ter con­tin­ued that the charges serve to in­tim­i­date other jour­nal­ists and neg­a­tively im­pact Cam­bo­dia’s press free­dom.

Voice of Amer­ica re­porter Sun Narin, one of the sig­na­to­ries, said jour­nal­ists must help one an­other when they are en­coun­ter­ing dif­fi­cul­ties.

“I ap­peal to all lev­els of the courts to put an end to the su­per­vi­sion of the RFA re­porters and drop the charges against them,” he said.

Sot­hearin ex­pressed his ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the sup­port, which he con­sid­ered as a sign of shared un­der­stand­ing of t he hard­ships faced by journa lists i n Cam­bo­dia.

“They are journa lists, so they can read our mind and know our dif­fi­cul­ties. There­fore, t hey have been tr y ing to ca ll for help, push­ing for an ac­cept­able so­lu­tion and jus­tice for both of us,” he said.

Sot­hearin said he is un­able to work due to the court’s su­per­vi­sion or­der and hopes that by drop­ping the charges he will be able to find a job to sup­port his fam­ily.

Min­istry of In­for­ma­tion spokesman Phos So­vann said the case is un­der the court’s ju­ris­dic­tion, so he could not com­ment.

Me­dia trainer and Cam­bo­dia In­sti­tute for Me­dia Stud­ies di­rec­tor Moeun Ch­hean Nariddh sup­ported the ap­peal, say ing it gave t he t wo journa lists much needed sup­port and a sense that they were not a lone in batt ling t he court’s de­ci­sion.

He added that the court should drop the charges as it was se­verely im­pact­ing their abil­ity to live.

“The let­ter is just a state­ment to the coun­try’s lead­ers, but the de­ci­sion de­pends on the court. I wish the court would drop the charges be­cause its su­per­vi­sion im­pacts their stan­dard of liv­ing,” Ch­hean Nariddh said.

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For­mer RFA re­porters Yeang Sot­hearin (in blue shirt) and Oun Chhin (back, in white T-shirt) are es­corted by of­fi­cials af­ter be­ing de­tained for ques­tion­ing in Novem­ber.

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