Nicholas Bequelin, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East and Southeast Asia calls on the Cambodian government to “immediately drop the bogus charges against Uon Chhin and Yeang Sothearin, and take further corrective action to restore Cambodia’s media freedoms. The climate of fear and self-censorship created by authorities must end.”
The statement comes ahead of the two-year anniversary of the arrest of the two former Radio Free Asia (RFA) journalists.
“Two years on, it is outrageous that these brave journalists remain under investigation despite the complete lack of credible evidence against them.” continued Mr. Bequelin.
YeangSothearin and UonChhin were arrested on November 14, 2017 and detained in Prey Sar prison. They were provisionally charged four days later with “supplying a foreign state with information prejudicial to national defence” under Article 445 of Cambodia’s Criminal Code. In March 2018 the pair were further charged with “production of pornography” under Article 39 of the Law on the Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation.
As a result of the accumulated charges against them, each faces up to 16 years in prison.
Although the verdict in their case was due to be announced on October 03, the trial judge instead ordered that the case be sent for re-investigation.
On August 21, 2018, both men were released from Prey Sar prison on bail, after more than nine months in pre-trial detention; however, they remain under judicial supervision.
Since 2017, the Cambodian authorities have engaged in a major crackdown against independent and critical media. Outspoken Khmer-language media outlets have had their activities severely restricted, including via the closure of 32 radio frequencies relaying RFA, Voice of America (VOA) and Voice of Democracy (VOD) broadcasts.
RFA closed its Cambodia bureau in September 2017, citing the repressive environment and on-going harassment of their journalists.
The sale of the Phnom Penh Post – Cambodia’s last remaining independent English-Khmer language newspaper – to business interests with links to Prime Minister Hun Sen in May 2018 struck a severe blow to press freedom in Cambodia. This followed the enforced closure of the outspoken Cambodia Daily newspaper in September 2017. (Source: Amnesty Intl.)