A report from the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists has decried the killing of journalists with no consequences, listing Cambodia as one of several countries where members of the press have been killed since 2004 “with complete impunity”.
“Our research has found that such impunity emboldens the killers and silences the press,” the report reads.
From 2004 to 2013, 370 journalists have been murdered across the world for their reporting, with 90 per cent ending in no arrests, prosecutions, or convictions, the CPJ reported.
The two Cambodian journalists listed in the CPJ’s report, Khim Sambo and Hang Serei Oudom, were killed in 2008 and 2012, respectively.
Chhay Thy, provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc in Ratanakkiri, where Serei Oudom reported for Virakchun Khmer Daily, said the pair accused of murdering the journalist for his coverage of the illegal logging industry were released and had their charges dropped.
“The trial at the provincial court has not been fair and just to Oudom’s family, because the court did not open a thorough investigation”, he said, adding that Serei Oudom’s wife had filed an appeal to no response.
This year, two journalists, Suon Chan and Taing Try, were killed in Cambodia. At least 12 have been killed since 1993’s UN-supported elections.
CPJ Southeast Asia representative Shawn Crispin said such killings have been on the rise over the years in Cambodia.
“Cambodia has an impunity problem, one that has intensified in recent years with the unresolved killing of political and environmental journalists,” Crispin said.
But according to Chhay Sophal, board member of the Cambodian Club of Journalists, the situation for journalists has improved since the interparty warfare and Khmer Rouge-inflicted chaos of the 1990s.
One remaining issue, however, is that of journalists extorting the people or companies they cover, as Try had been accused of.
“We discuss this a lot in Phnom Penh, and we do not agree with either extortion from journalists or journalists being murdered,” Sophal said.