The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the South East Asia Journalist Unions (SEAJU) today released a special report, Cambodia's Media on Edge. The situation report compiled by the IFJ, in consultation with Cambodian journalists in and outside the country, details Cambodia’s deteriorating media freedom at the hands of the Hun Sen government.
Over the past year, freedom of expression and independent media in Cambodia has endured ongoing persecution by the country’s government, and radio stations, independent newspapers and international non-government organizations have been forced to close under the guise of not paying taxes or being unregistered.
“The government-led crackdown has created a culture of fear; intimidation and self-censorship in the media,” the IFJ said, in launching its report today.
“The culture of fear and intimidation that the Hun Sen government is using to weaken the role of the media and its ability to report freely and independently is having a detrimental effect on Cambodia’s democracy.”
The IFJ points to the bleak turn of events in the country that has seen journalists accused and jailed for espionage, while the main political opposition party, the CNRP has been dissolved by the courts, its leader jailed for treason and 118 of its members barred from politics for five years.
Despite Cambodia’s Constitution guaranteeing press freedom, the IFJ and SEAJU said the Hun Sen government has embarked on a campaign of intimidation using vague laws, including criminal defamation, to censor journalists, political opponents and commentators critical of the Hun Sen-led Cambodian People’s Party.
The IFJ said each government action can only be viewed as a further attempt to control the outcome of upcoming elections. The proposed elections due to be held in July 2018 now offer no political choice for Cambodian voters. The crackdown on independent media and journalists has robbed voters of any chance they had of making informed political decisions.
The IFJ said: “The Hun Sen government has left Cambodians without a diversity of views in the media, all in an attempt to stifle critical voices and control the flow of information across the country. Journalists and the media are working in a culture of fear, a sentiment repeated throughout interviews in the Report.”
The IFJ and SEAJU demand the immediate release of the two Cambodian journalists, Uon Chhin and Yeang Sothearin and that of Australian filmmaker James Ricketson.
SEAJU said: "We are gravely concerned for the safety of our colleagues in Cambodia in the face of increasing repression, which we note has become a trend among countries in the region. We call on Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government to prove that it is, indeed, dedicated to serving the Cambodian people by respecting press freedom and the people’s right to know.”
SEAJU expressed its ongoing solidarity with its journalist colleagues in Cambodia with a message to stay strong in the face of the government onslaught.
“We call on them to close ranks and stand firm in the face of government’s assault. We send our collective message to the government of Cambodia and those of all other countries in Southeast Asia that seek to suppress the independent media: You will never kill the truth."
For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0946
The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries
Find the IFJ on Twitter: @ifjasiapacific
Find the IFJ on Facebook: www.facebook.com/IFJAsiaPacific