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Photographer to be set free

A Japanese photojournalist jailed on charges of producing pornography was set to be released following intervention from Information Minister Khieu Kanharith, Siem Reap Provincial Prosecutor Ty Soveinthal said yesterday.

Local officials have alleged that Go Takayama, 28, photographed women at brothels in Siem Reap, though organisers of the recently concluded Angkor Photo Festival say the photos in question were inoffensive portraits of a married couple.

Ty Soveinthal said Takayama and the couple arrested along with him would likely be released today or tomorrow, following a hearing at the provincial court scheduled for today.

“I have already completed my investigation of the Japanese photographer, and I think his punishment should be very minor and he should not be jailed in Cambodia,” Ty Soveinthal said, adding that Takayama would likely be fined 1 million riels (US$245) and would possibly receive a suspended sentence.

“The reason why we have considered releasing this Japanese man is because we have found that his mistake is very minor, and he was supported by Cambodia’s Ministry of Information, His Excellency Khieu Kanharith.”

Khieu Kanharith said in an email yesterday that he had contacted Siem Reap officials about the case and would be sending a formal letter to secure Takayama’s release.

“I got messages from many friends, some are Cambodian journalists trained in USA, affirming his innocence. I also checked his blog and understood the nature of his art,” Khieu Kanharith wrote.
“Also there was some misunderstanding about his works. In the future I suggest any foreign journalist ... to first
contact our provincial information office [on our website] for arrangement.”

Conflicting claims
Chea Heng, deputy chief of Siem Reap’s anti-human trafficking and juvenile protection office, said Takayama had hired the couple arrested with him to help him shoot illicit photos.

“He has taken many naked photos of teenage women in brothels in Siem Reap,” Chea Heng said.

But Jessica Lim, coordinator assistant for the Angkor Photo Festival, said the photos in question consisted exclusively of clothed shots of the married couple, and were shot as part of a project for the festival based on the Cambodian folktale “The Seven Colour Princess”.

Takayama’s female subject posed in a t-shirt and sarong, later removing the shirt to reveal a bra, while the male subject posed in shorts and no shirt, Lim added.

“He was trying to demonstrate the aspect of possessive, strong love,” she said. ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY JAMES O’TOOLE

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