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. However, with the trial is being conducted with the alleged killers in absentia, the IFJ has called on the Cambodian government to put all efforts to locating the those on trial to bring them forward to face justice.
On January 31, 2014, journalist Suon Chan was set upon by a mob of fishermen in Cholkiri district’s Peam Chhkork commune. The 44-year-old reporter for Khmer language newspaper Meakea Kampuchea was on his way home when he was attacked by the mob of six men with stones and bamboo sticks. The violent onslaught was witnessed by his son. Suan Chan died from his injuries after being transferred to Phnom Penh from a provincial 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, in absentia. 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 attackers as Rom Ra, Saing Seing Eang, Yim Non and Yim Nak. According to Cambodian law, if found guilty, the accused 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. But a trial without a killer is not really delivering on the promise of justice.
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 bravery in coming forward and testifying in the case. The authorities must act immediately to find the perpetrators of this murder who have been on the run for six months. They must be punished for their actions and it is the responsibility of authorities to ensure they are found and punished immediately. It will 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.”
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