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Elections Dangerous for Journalists: Group

Many Cambodian journalists have been physically or legally attacked, and most feel vulnerable or threatened as they set about covering elections, the rights group Licadho said Saturday.

In a report for World Press Freedom Day, the group said journalists experience “threats and fear” that have “direct influence” on their work.

“Their reporting has a direct influence on the public’s perception of their country, especially around election periods,” the report said.

“Cambodia’s media is often described as one of the freest in the region, but in reality journalists describe an environment in which the pursuit of truth is undermined by political bias, fear and corruption,” it said.

Most of the national media are aligned with a political party, and most favor the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, the report said.

“Bribes are so commonplace they are not even considered corruption,” it said. “Formal censorship exists, and self-censorship is widespread through Cambodia’s media.”

Um Sarin, director of the Cambodian Association for the Protection of Journalists, called the report “a reflection of the facts.”

“Recently, some Cambodian journalists have been threatened, assaulted, sued and sacked,” he said.

Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith called the report “unfair.”

“If a newspaper wants to support any political party, please go support that party,” he said.

While some papers favored parties, others were independent, he said.

“Asian nations have praised the good freedom of the media in Cambodia,” he said. “Why does Licadho not value Cambodia?”