Cambodia: Radio owner sentenced to 20 months

Sok Oudom, the owner of Rihysen Radio Station, was sentenced on 22 December, 2020 by Kampong Chhnang court to 20 months in jail for reporting on a land conflict between villagers and the military. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) backedits affiliate, the Cambodian Journalists Alliance (CamboJA) in condemning the ruling and the judicial persecution of journalists in the country.

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The case began in May 2020, when Nou Samreth, deputy commander of Kampong Chhnang military operations area, sued Sok Oudom after the journalist reported and live-streamed on Facebook an ongoing land dispute between provincial residents and the military in Chieb commune, Teuk Phos district, Kampong Chhnang.

Following his reporting, Oudom was arrested on May 13 and sent to Kampong Chhnang Provincial Prison on 15 May on charges of broadcasting false news and “incitement to commit felonies”. According to CamboJA’s observer at court, the judge also imposed a 20 million riel (US$ 5.000) fine.

Sok Oudom expressed strong disappointment at the court’s decision and vowed to appeal against it.

Nop Vy, executive director of CamboJA, said: “The conviction of Sok Oudom shows that journalists who dare to report and uncover the interests of military and powerful officials are still being persecuted through the judiciary, with the use of the Cambodian Criminal Code rather than provisions in the Law on the Press. We are concerned that mechanisms for monitoring and promoting social justice are not being strengthened.”

The IFJ said: “We are dismayed at Sok Oudom’s prison sentence and urge the authorities to release him immediately without charge. The IFJ joins CamboJA in rejecting the use of the Criminal Code instead of the Press Law to deal with cases involving journalists.”

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