Cambodia: IFJ affiliate CamboJA release report on journalist harassment

A report by the Cambodian Journalist Alliance Association (CamboJA) has documented the crackdown on media freedom since 2017, with journalists reporting high rates of harassment, attacks and detentions. The IFJ stands with its affiliate CamboJA in its advocacy, research and findings, and calls on the Cambodian judiciary and government to address media rights violations in the country.

A journalist looks at pictures on the wall of an office of online media outlet Voice of Democracy (VOD) in Phnom Penh on February 13, 2023, after Cambodian Prime Minister said VOD would have its operating licence revoked. CreditL Tang Chhin Sothy / AFP

On April 24, CamboJA released the Cambodian Journalism Situation Report 2022, an annual report that monitors and reports on cases of harassment against journalists in Cambodia.

From January 1 to December 31 2022, the organisation found 35 cases of harassment against 54 journalists reported in news articles, social media posts, court documents and interviews. The types of harassment the journalists faced included legal action, the revocation of their accreditation, violence and threats of violence, intimidation, discrimination, detention for questioning and imprisonment. As of December 2022, seven journalists remained in prison and pre-trial detention. CamboJA said the Criminal Code was the most common law used in cases involving journalists to intentionally “strike fear in journalists”, reflecting the government’s fear of a free press.

The association identified several concerning trends impacting press freedom in Cambodia, including the exploitation of the criminal code to attack journalists, intimidation of media workers by local officials, and discrimination and threats against independent media outlets. This was most recently seen in the local and international opposition to the closure of major independent media outlet Voices of Democracy (VOD) in February, which CamboJA has identified as a sign of increasing danger for media freedom in Cambodia. Following instruction from Prime Minister Hun Sen, the Ministry of Information cancelled the outlet’s publishing and broadcasting licenses on February 13, revoking its right to continue radio and online news services. Since the decision, VOD’s online Khmer and English services have been blocked by several internet service providers throughout the country.

CamboJA’s report identifies VOD’s closure as emblematic of a worrying trend of independent media outlets facing more “arbitrary discrimination, threats and actions” than any other media outlet. According to CamboJA, a “truly free media environment” should give all journalists equal rights and freedoms and should not discriminate against independent outlets.

CamboJA said: “CamboJA today releases our annual monitoring on Cambodian journalism situation. The 2022 monitoring report on reported harassment against journalists once again offers cause for deep concern. While the reported cases dropped compared to last year, flickers of optimism in those figures were snuffed out by the closure of one of Cambodia’s most prominent independent media outlets at the start of 2023... While some stakeholders may see this year’s report as a sign of progress, we are wary of drawing any conclusions. Impunity continues to rein for those who threaten or attack journalists.”

The IFJ said: “Attacks against freedom of expression, speech and the press continue to be a major concern for independent journalists and media outlets in Cambodia. The situation described by CamboJA’s is deeply confronting and must be unsettled. The IFJ condemns the numerous attacks on journalists, outlets and press freedom described in the report, and commends the journalists who shared their stories of harassment, intimidation, and violence. The IFJ calls on CamboJA in their recommendations to the Cambodian judiciary, government and journalists and media organisations in order to improve the conditions of journalists and media workers across the country."

For further information contact IFJ Asia - Pacific on [email protected]

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

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