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NGOs Call on Gov’t to End Impunity Against Journalists

FILE PHOTO - Journalists gathered around Pheng Heng, co-defense attorney for opposition leader Kem Sokha, after a bail hearing session in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, August 22, 2018. (Ty Aulissa/VOA Khmer)

The 42 NGOs made the statement on the International Day last week to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists.

More than 40 local and international non-governmental organizations have called on the Cambodian government to end impunity against journalists and rights activists.

The 42 NGOs made the statement on the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists, on Friday.

The NGOs highlighted the 13 Cambodian journalists killed in recent years as a result of reporting on corruption and criticism of the government.

They said that in 11 of the 13 cases no-one was brought to trial while in seven cases no suspects were arrested for the crimes.

“When journalists are targeted by violence for what they write or report, freedom of expression is stifled and replaced by self-censorship and fear; the public is denied information, and the powerful cannot be held to account. When the state fails to investigate and punish violence against journalists, it sends the chilling message that attacks on journalists are permissible,” the statement reads.

Over the past two years, no Cambodian reporters have been killed, however, the groups added, journalists still remain at the forefront of legal threats and media outlets have been targeted in politically motivated cases.

“We call upon the authorities to prosecute perpetrators of crimes committed against journalists and human rights defenders by undertaking effective, independent, and transparent investigations and prosecutions in accordance with international human rights standards.”

Nop Vy, broadcast director at the Cambodian Center for Independent Media, one of the signatories, said on Friday that continued impunity in Cambodia was having a negative impact on Cambodian journalism.

“When such crimes continue, reporters cannot play their role in observing and reporting the truth. When there are no consequences for the offenders, this will cause long-term effects on society.”

Khieu Sopheak, an interior ministry spokesman, told VOA that the police and courts had investigated criminal offenses related to the cases highlighted by the NGOs and welcomed the call for justice to be served to the perpetrators.

He added that in some cases the suspects had fled the country and sought asylum overseas, without providing details.