Cambodia: Two journalists arrested over the coverage of land dispute

Two reporters were arrested in Preah Sihanouk province in the south-west of Cambodia after they covered the protest of an ongoing land dispute on Friday, July 19. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins its affiliate the Cambodian Association for Protection of Journalists (CAPJ) in condemning the arrest and urge the authorities to drop all charges and release the two journalists immediately.

Hun Sokha, the publisher of Facebook-based CPNTV, and Keo Rattana, a reporter for TN TV Online were reporting from Sihanoukville’s Muoy commune, when they were arrested on Friday. They were covering a land dispute between the villagers and the Thai Boon Roong company, which has been ongoing for more than 20 years. According to a report the journalists were livestreaming as around 20 families tried to stop the heavy machinery from the company tried to clear the disputed land.

Military police arrived at the scene and asked the journalists to stop airing the protest. After that, the police arrested the two journalists together with the five villagers. The journalists were charged with incitement because they were asking “inciting questions” to the protesters. Based on the National Military Police’s statement, the arrest was made on an order from Seang Sok, a prosecutor of Preah Sihanouk province. Journalists charged with incitement could face up to one month in prison.

The CAPJ has called on the Cambodian authorities to respect journalists’ rights and freedom of the press, including allowing journalists to report freely and publish the information to the public. “We demand for the immediate release of the two journalists,” CAPJ said in its statement.

The IFJ said: “We condemn the arrest of the two journalists, who were simply doing their job. Their arrest represents a violation of press freedom. The charged is hampering journalists from a free and save environment. We urge the authorities to drop the charge and release the two journalists so that they can back to work.”

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