AN opposition-aligned publisher who was recently released from prison after being convicted of disinformation was among those who marked World Press Freedom Day on Monday by calling for a moratorium on journalist arrests and condemning the government for a spike in such arrests over the last 12 months.
“Hopefully after the World Press Freedom Day, no journalist will be arrested or imprisoned due to reporting the critical inaction of government and law enforcement,” Hang Chakra, publisher of Khmer Machas Srok, said during a ceremony marking the inauguration of a new office for the Press Council of Cambodia.
Hang Chakra was imprisoned in June of last year after the paper published a series of stories alleging corruption on the part of officials in the cabinet of Deputy Prime Miniser Sok An. He was released last month after being given a Royal pardon.
A report released Monday by the Club of Cambodian Journalists stated that 24 journalists have been arrested in the past 12 months, up from 10 arrests reported during the same period a year earlier.
In a statement Monday, Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, condemned what he described as “the gag on Cambodian journalists”, saying it was “stifling democracy and human rights in Cambodia”.
Speaking at the same ceremony as Hang Chakra, Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said the government stood behind all journalists, even those who are critical of its policies.
“We want to see journalists join together to develop journalism in Cambodia and report the facts of each story to help the government eliminate corrupt people from our country,” he said.