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Courts, Self-Censorship Hurting Expression: Broadcaster

Pa Nguon Teang, director of the Cambodian Center for Independent Media on 'Hello VOA', on Monday.

Cambodia’s courts have emerged as a tool for the restriction of the freedom of expression, while rights activists and journalists alike have begun a practice of self-censorship, a prominent media director said Monday.

“The courts have become the most popular tool for the government to use to pressure rights activists and journalists,” Pa Nguon Teang, director of the Cambodian Center for Independent Media, told “Hello VOA.”

Demonstrations are difficulty to get permission for and subsequently face heavy police crackdowns, he said.

“People can express their opinions on general issues, but when it comes to touching things that benefit the leaders, it is impossible,” he said. “This means a government intent to restrict people’s rights and intention to protest against the wrongdoing or benefits of authorities.”

He noted the recent police beating of a land rights protester during the visit last week of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as an example of an obvious repression of the right to free expression.

Pa Nguon Teang, who is also the director of Voice of Democracy radio, said he himself has had to walk a fine line to avoid prosecution.

“We seem to work under pressure,” he said. “We are cautious. But despite knowing we will face [court] challenges, we still do it. We always work in a way that ensures what we do does not violate the law. If they arrest us or abuse us, this then will surely reflect a violation of the law [and show that] we are just victims.”