Cambodia: Supreme Court decides on key cases against media workers

In separate cases on July 15, the Supreme Court of Cambodia rejected the appeal from two former Radio Free Asia (RFA) reporters, Uon Chhin and Yeang Sothearin and ordered the retrial of RT fixer Rath Rott Mony. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) urges authorities to drop the charges against the journalists.

Rath Rott Mony speaks to the media from a prison truck after his trial at Phnom Penh Municipal Court in 2019. Credit: STR / AFP

The Supreme Court announced its decision to reject an appeal by former Washington-based RFA reporters, Uon Chhin and Yeang Sothearin who are accused of espionage and producing pornography. The Supreme Court upheld the Phnom Penh Municipal Court order to re-investigate the charges despite the lower court’s finding that there was no evidence to support the allegations.  

The two former RFA reporters were detained on November 17, 2017 and charged for “illegally collecting information for a foreign source” after the RFA bureau closed its operations in Phnom Penh in September 2017. In March 2018, authorities accused the two of “illegally produced pornography”. If found guilty they face between 7 to 15 years in prison.

In another case, the Supreme Court found the incitement conviction against RT fixer Rath Rott Mony was incorrect, ordering a retrial. Mony, who was the president of the Cambodian Construction Workers Trade Union Federation (CCTUF), was arrested in December 2018 and sentenced to two years in June 2019 following his assistance in a documentary by Russia’s RT news service about child sex trafficking titled My Mother SoldMe. The government claimed the documentary contained “fake news” about the country. Mony has paid $17,500 in damages to two of the mothers of girls in the documentary.

The IFJ has closely monitored press freedom in Cambodia for the last 17 years, recently launching a campaign in Cambodia on World Press Freedom Day to promote press freedom and the people’s right to know.

The IFJ said: “For years the judicial system in Cambodia has targeted journalists and activists, leading to widespread self-censorship. The IFJ urges authorities to acknowledge the dangers of continuing the prosecution of journalists without evidence and drop the cases against Uon Chhin, Yeang Sothearin and Rath Rott Mony.”

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

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