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Information Minister Condemned for ‘Intimidation’ of Journalists Covering Election

A photo shared on Twitter, on May 23, 2017, shows Cambodia's information minister Khieu Kanharith posting on Facebook a full image of the passport of a foreign journalist from the Cambodia Daily. (Screenshot from Twitter)

The Overseas Press Club of Cambodia said in a statement that the move was “potentially dangerous and defamatory” and urged a retraction.

A journalists’ association in Cambodia has condemned information minister Khieu Kanharith for publishing the passport details of a Canadian reporter covering the upcoming elections for a local newspaper.

The Overseas Press Club of Cambodia said in a statement that the move was “potentially dangerous and defamatory” and urged a retraction.

“We urge members of the royal government, police and any associates to remove this information from the Internet,” it said.

Zsombor Peter, a reporter with the Cambodia Daily, along with his Cambodian colleague Aun Pheap, were the subject of a complaint by a local opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party official after they visited his office in Ratanakkiri province to interview him.

Kanharith wrote on Facebook after receiving the complaint: “Please all journalists understand more about the election law and ethics to avoided of any complaints.”

However, the content of the complaint seems to be no more than the accusation that the reporters asked locals routine questions, such as which party they voted for in the last election, in 2012.

The complaint claims that this was in breach of the election law, which they claim prohibits discussing politics during an election campaign.

Ma Vichet, police chief in O’Yadav district, where the complaints were filed, said the force had interviewed residents who made the complaints. “When the residents informed us about the case, we just went there, collected information, and asked who they are and where they were from,” he said.

Hang Puthea, National Election Committee spokesman, said the complaints could have been filed if the journalists’ questions were seen as “creating fear for voters” or if they had asked about previous voting habits, which he said would amount to a “loss of privacy.”

Douglas Steele, the Cambodia Daily’s general manager, described the complaints as “a bit absurd” and said no law in Cambodia restricted newspapers from publishing news about the election.

“What the Cambodia Daily will do is the same as what we have been doing for 24 years - cover the news without fear or favor,” he said.