Kouv Piseth, a correspondent for news website Reap Tannhektar, was placed in pre-trial detention after his arrest on July 14 in Battambang city.
Piseth’s potential five year sentence comes due to charges of incitement under article 495 of Cambodia’s Criminal Code and for “obstructing an enforcement measure” under article 11 of the Law on Preventive Measures Against the Spread of COVID-19 and other Severe and Dangerous Contagious Diseases.
This controversial COVID-19 law has already been used to arrest two journalists for commenting on the Cambodian government’s response to the pandemic. Sovann Rithy, an editor for news website TVFB, was sentenced to 18 months in prison after posting a quote by Cambodia’s Prime Minister, Hun Sen, on Facebook that showed his imprudency towards the potential effects of the pandemic.
Ros Sokhet, publisher of the Cheat Khmer newspaper, was also handed an 18 prison sentence in November 2020 on a charge of “incitement to provoke serious chaos in social security” after he questioned the lockdown’s potential impact on the Cambodian population.
CamboJA said: “We regret to see this bad action of authority by arresting Kouv Piseth. The arrest expresses another threat to the freedom of expression, especially freedom of journalists who express their own opinion to critic government actions. Government should respect people freedom, internal laws and constitution rather than always taken actions against whom, including journalists who critic their works. Action against Kouv Piseth will create more fear to social media users and journalists.”
The IFJ said: ”The arrest of Kouv Piseth reinforces the Cambodian government’s attempts to restrict the freedom of press. The IFJ calls on the Cambodian government to drop the charges against Piseth and assure the protection of media personnel during this time of disease.”