Cambodia: Supreme Court upholds seizure of two journalists’ passport

Supreme Court of Cambodia has upheld the ruling on withholding the passports of two former RFA reporters who were charged with espionage. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) continues to express its concerns on the case against the journalists and calls authorities to return the passports.

Oun Chhin (R) and Yeang Sothearin (C), former Radio Free Asia journalists, were at the Phnom Penh municipal court on October 3, 2019. Credit: Tang Chhin Sothy/AFP

Supreme Court on May 27 has refused to return the passports belonging to  Yeang Sothearin and Uon Chhin that were seized when the two journalists were charged with illegally providing information, that could harm national security, to a foreign state. The Supreme Court has only returned Chhin’s Khmer identity card.

When two reporters were arrested in November 2017 after a late-night police raid, Chhin had his ID card and passport with him while Sothearin was carrying his passport.  Without his passport Chhin to is unable to travel abroad for health check-ups and professional training. As for Sothearin, he is unable to visit his parents who suffer from a long-term illness and  his family members in Kampuchea Krom in Vietnam.

Their defence lawyer Sam Chamreurn argued that given  the court has already lifted its supervision order, there is no need to  keep their passports.

The case dates back to 2017, when Chhin and Sothearin were detained on November 17 for “illegally collecting information for a foreign source” and charged under the Article 445 of the Criminal Code for allegedly providing information that could cause damage to national security. If they had been found guilty they faced between 7 to 15 years in prison. In March 2018, they were  subjected to trumped-up charges of production of pornography. Chhin and Sothearin were released on bail in August 2018.

The IFJ said: “IFJ expresses its dismay at the decision of Supreme Court. IFJ will continue to support these two journalists and demand that authorities in Cambodia stop harassing journalists and respect media freedom. IFJ calls to authorities to return the passports of Chhin and Sothearin and allow them total freedom of movement and freedom of association.”

For further information contact IFJ Asia - Pacific on 
+61 2 9333 0918

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries

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