WASHINGTON DC - Cambodia’s media environment has again earned the rating of “not free” by the US-based watchdog Freedom House, for the jailing in 2012 of independent radio station owner Mam Sonando and a continually threatening environment for journalists.
Freedom House President David Kramer told reporters in Washington on Wednesday that countries who earn the rating “not free” fail to meet criteria for legal, political or economic freedom of the press.
Karin Deutsch Karlekar, a senior researcher and managing editor for the organization, said Cambodia’s media environment was more open than Vietnam or Burma’s, but that the criminalization of charges for defamation made for a “very high number of attacks and harassment of journalists, which has gotten worse in recent years.”
“We had a very bad case last year, the case against Mam Sonando, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison,” she said.
Mam Sonando served more than eight months in prison starting from July 2012, on secessionist charges widely viewed as contrived and lacking evidence. He was released in March, with reduced charges, but he is still facing a suspended sentence for lesser charges that many see as equally unfair.
Freedom House also cited the 2008 murder of journalist Khem Sambor, a reporter for the opposition-friendly Meakneakseakar Khmer newspaper, as evidence of a deterioration in Cambodia’s media environment.
The group ranked Cambodia 149 of 196 countries in terms of press freedoms, putting it in the company of Burma, Cuba, China and North Korea, among others.