Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Cambodian journalists start petition to free ex-RFA reporters charged with espionage

Cambodian journalists start petition to free ex-RFA reporters charged with espionage

Former RFA reporters Yeang Sothearin (front, in blue shirt) and Oun Chhin (back) are escorted by officials after being detained for questioning in Phnom Penh in November.
Former RFA reporters Yeang Sothearin (front, in blue shirt) and Oun Chhin (back) are escorted by officials after being detained for questioning in Phnom Penh in November. Pha Lina

Cambodian journalists start petition to free ex-RFA reporters charged with espionage

Cambodian journalists this week started a petition seeking the release of two former Radio Free Asia journalists who were arrested on accusations of “espionage” during a crackdown on the political opposition and independent media outlets.

Journalists Oun Chhin and Yeang Sothearin were initially detained in November for allegedly setting up an unlicensed karaoke production studio, but authorities later said they were being investigated for setting up a studio for the US-funded RFA, which the pair has denied. RFA has also maintained that the journalists were no longer working for the news network, which was forced to shutter its in-country operations in September.

Sun Narin, a local journalist who helped organise the petition on change.org, said today that journalists didn’t want the case to set a precedent for the courts.

“We still call for the drop of charges," he said. "Especially because it’s too serious and inappropriate.”

The pair has been provisionally charged with providing “a foreign state with information which undermines national defence”, which charge carries a 7- to 15-year prison sentence.

Keo Vanny, the lawyer representing the pair, said he has filed a motion for bail at the Supreme Court after the pair was denied bail by the lower courts.

The petition is addressed to Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana and Phnom Penh Municipal Court President Taing Sunlay.

Meanwhile, four press freedom organisations – Reporters Without Borders, the Cambodian Center for Independent Media, the Southeast Asian Press Alliance and the Overseas Press Club of Cambodia – released a joint statement on Wednesday urging authorities to free Chhin and Sothearin.

Their continued imprisonment "is cruel, unjustified, and contravenes commitments to uphold the rights to freedom of expression as outlined in the Cambodian constitution,” the statement says.

Ed Legaspi, executive director of the Southeast Asia Press Alliance, said the case “has made it clear that the government is intent on clamping down on independent reporting”.

MOST VIEWED

  • PM orders immediate action against ‘sexy’ live streamers

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday ordered immediate action against women who live stream their sales pitches on Facebook wearing revealing clothing. The prime minister said the practice erodes traditional Cambodian values and disgraces women. Hun Sen gave the order to officials attending the Cambodian

  • Tourist area greenlit in Sihanoukville

    The National Committee for Coastal Management and Development will coordinate with relevant ministries over the establishment of a billion-dollar tourist area named Neak Reach in Preah Sihanouk province after it was proposed by the Ministry of Tourism. The Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and

  • Hun Sen defends decision to dock Westerdam cruise ship

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Thursday hit back at critics who say he allowed the Westerdam cruise ship to dock in Sihanoukville for political reasons. Speaking at an annual gathering of the Ministry of Interior, Hun Sen said he acted to avert a humanitarian catastrophe

  • Cool heads will defeat Covid-19

    Since Covid-19 was first reported as a world health issue, cruise ships have been the worst to suffer after airlines. The experiences of those who were initially trapped on the Covid-19-stricken Diamond Princess are unimaginable. The cruise ship was rejected from docking at one

  • Affordable housing project in Kandal nearing completion

    Worldbridge Homes Co Ltd’s $73 million affordable housing project in Kandal province’s Koh Kor village, in Sa’ang district, is on track to be completed at year’s end or at the beginning of next year, its general manager Yuk Sothirith told The Post

  • Crimes up with 211 deaths, influx of foreigners to blame

    Minister of Interior Sar Kheng on Wednesday said crimes increased by eight per cent last year, resulting in 211 deaths. He revealed the figures during the ministry’s 2019 review and laid the blame for the increase on an influx of foreigners into the Kingdom. “The crime