Journalist killers on trial in Cambodia

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins its affiliate the Cambodian Association for the Protection of Journalists (CAPJ) in welcoming the commencement of the trial into the brutal slaying of a journalist in January this year.

On January 31, 2014, Suon Chan was set upon by a mob of fishermen after he left his house in Cholkiri district’s Peam Chhkork commune. Chan, a 44-year-old reporter for the Khmer language Meakea Kampuchea newspaperwas on his way home when he was set upon by the mob of six men. He was attacked by stones and bamboo sticks in the violent onslaught that was witnessed by his son. Initially treated at a provincial hospital, Suan Chan later died from his injuries after being  transferred to Phnom Penh hospital.

It is alleged Suon Chan had come under attack after publishing a report on illegal fishing in the local commune prior to his death. He had been reporting and photographing the use of large electric rods to kill fish in conservation areas.

On October 7, the trial of Chan’s murder opened at Kampong Chang provincial court. All six attackers have been charged with ‘attempted murder’ by the prosecution. During the trial, Dos Chim, the 20-year-old son of Suon Chan told the court that “they attacked my father with sticks while I was helping him.” He identified four of the six attackers, all of whom were not present at the trial. According to Cambodian law, if found guilty, the attackers will face life imprisonment.

President of CAPJ, Um Sarin, said: “We support the trial of Kompong Chang court and urge authorities to search and arrest perpetrators to punish them as soon as possible. Killing journalists is blocking the free flow of information and a cowardly act.”

IFJ Asia Pacific acting director, Jane Worthington, said: “More than 90% of journalist murders around the world go unpunished, so this trial is an important development on many levels – both in securing justice for a journalist’s brutal murder and as validation of the public’s right to know. A man lost his life for revealing the truth – this cannot be forgotten. We join CAPJ in welcoming the trial of the murders of Suon Chan and hope that the Cambodian justice system recognizes the absolute tragedy for not only the victim’s family but also society at large when a journalist is silenced.

The IFJ said the murder of Suon Chan is a sad reminder of the dangers that face journalists.

“We commend Suon Chan’s son, Dos Chim, for his bravey in coming forward and testifying in the case. The authorities must bring these killers to justice in order to make a clear statement that these types of attacks will not be tolerated and that violent acts of retribution against journalists must come with an extreme price.”

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0946 

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 131 countries

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