Cambodia: Journalist assaulted by army commander

Sou Senghak, a local journalist for Samarakot News, was assaulted by an army commander after inadvertently witnessing the suspected illegal transportation of timber. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins its affiliate, the Cambodian Journalists Alliance Association (CamboJA), in condemning the use of violence against the journalist and calls on the authorities to hold the perpetrator to account.

Wildlife Alliance team confiscates illegal timber in Cambodia. Credit: Twitter / Wildlife Alliance.

On August 20, Senghak attended an event near the Battalion 394 barracks in the Choam Ksan district of Preah Vihear when he witnessed a truck carrying a considerable amount of timber. approximately two cubic metres of timber.

Senghak suspected the wood had been obtained illegally and considered stopping the truck to investigate. However, before he had the chance to do so, the Battalion’s commander exited the vehicle, approached Senghak, who was standing with his wife, and hit them both, causing Senghak’s nose to bleed.

Shortly after the assault, Senghak lodged a complaint with the military police but was later asked by Lieutenant Colonel Yoeung Se to resolve the case out of court. On August 22, the journalist agreed to withdraw the lawsuit.

The commander involved in the incident defended his actions on the basis that he had believed Senghak was another journalist who had been accused of extortion.

Senghak told CamboJA that he believed the wood had been stored in the barracks for an extended period, though he was uncertain of its owner. He also noted that illegal logging occurs regularly in Cambodia, particularly in the Preah Roka forest, close to where the incident took place.

Nop Vy, Executive Director of CamboJA, said: “Crimes against journalists undermine press freedom. It is the role of the government and judiciary system to bring justice to the victim involved."

The IFJ said: “The use of violence against journalists is an infringement on press freedom. The IFJ condemns the assault against Sou Senghak and urges authorities to take immediate action to hold the commander involved responsible.”

For further information contact IFJ Asia - Pacific on ifj@ifj-asia.org

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

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