Cambodia: Journalists’ appeal rejected in Radio Free Asia espionage case

Cambodia’s Appeal Court on January 28 dismissed an appeal by two former Radio Free Asia (RFA) journalists’ against alleged espionage charges. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) strongly condemns the rejection of the appeal, urging authorities to immediately drop the charges.

Yeang Sothearin (L) and Oun Chhin (R) former Radio Free Asia journalists outside the court of appeal. Credit: TANG CHHIN SOTHY / AFP

The Phnom Penh court rejected former RFA journalists Uon Chhin and Yeang Sothearin’s joint appeal to drop a reinvestigation into allegations of espionage made against them.  The long-running case dates back to November 2017 when they were arrested for allegedly “illegally collecting information from a foreign source”. Chinn and Sothearin were released on bail in August 2018 but have since been unable to leave the country or shift address. While a trial judge ruled on October 3, 2019, that there was insufficient evidence to convict Chhin and Sothearin, instead of interpreting insufficient evidence as justification to dismiss the case, the court ordered a re-investigation into the matter.

Chhin and Sothearin deny all allegations against them. “I think this is a political decision, not a judicial decision”, Sam Chamreoun, the journalists' lawyer said in response to the court’s decision.

The IFJ said: “The continued repression of Chhin and Sothearin depicts the severe lack of press freedoms and media rights in Cambodia right now. The ongoing repression and intimidation of these journalists is clearly intended to send a signal to other journalists and effectively silence the media. The state of media freedom in the country remains egregious so long as the state continues to see media as a threat rather than a vital pillar of democracy that serves to report in the public interest. We urge authorities to drop the charges”.

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