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Reporters urge govt protection

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Logs believed to have been cut from illegally felled trees lie at the side of a road in Kampong Cham province last month. Journalists are calling for greater protection from illegal logging syndicates.

A GROUP of journalists in Oddar Meanchey province has called for increased protection after Royal Cambodian Armed Forces soldiers detained 11 reporters who were pursuing a story about illegal logging, a group representative said Sunday.

Chhem Saruom, a member of the Cambodian Journalists Watchdog Association, said he and 10 other reporters were held for two hours Thursday by a group of 10 soldiers in Samrong district. The reporters had approached the soldiers and were taking photos of them after spotting them loading two trucks with felled timber, he said.

“About 10 armed soldiers pointed their guns at us and did not allow us to leave the place, but after two hours they agreed to let us to go,” Chhem Saruom said, adding that they had also returned a camera after briefly confiscating it.

Provincial RCAF officials could not be reached for comment Sunday.

Rak Dou, another reporter who said he was detained, said that writing stories about illegal logging in the province was particularly dangerous “because the loggers are so powerful”.

“I think that when they threaten reporters’ lives when they report about illegal logging, it can strongly affect freedom of expression and our right to get information,” Rak Dou said.

“We are reporting about this to protect our country, so we should be protected,” he said.

Chhem Saroum said 23 reporters from the province planned to meet in the coming days to draft a letter to local officials calling for increased protection.

Lim Bun Thorn, director of provincial Information Department, said Sunday that reporters pursuing stories about illegal logging were often threatened. However, he also said that in some cases the reporters were actually trying to extort money from loggers.

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