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

  • Breaking: US House passes 'Cambodia Democracy Act'

    The US House of Representatives in Washington, DC, on Monday, passed the “HR 526 Cambodia Democracy Act”, also known as the Cambodia Democracy Act of 2019. If signed off by the president, the bill will allow two major sets of action to be taken against high-ranking Cambodian

  • ‘Zero-dollar’ tours under fire

    Minister of Tourism Thong Khon has blamed “zero-dollar” tour operators for the decrease in foreign tourists to Angkor Archaeological Park in the first half of this year and has called for action against them. Angkor Archaeological Park received 1.24 million foreign visitors in the first half

  • Breaking: Rubbish found packed inside 83 containers at S'ville port

    Eighty-three containers packed with rubbish were broken open at Sihanoukville Autonomous Port by joint authorities on Tuesday. The origin of the containers has yet to be ascertained, Ministry of Environment spokesman Neth Pheaktra said. Pheaktra, who is also the ministry’s secretary of state, said

  • Some jobs off limits to foreigners from August

    Beginning from the second week of August, foreigners will be banned from driving taxis and tuk-tuks, as well as being motorcycle delivery drivers, street food vendors, hairdressers and product distributors among other lower-income jobs. Some white-collar jobs such as the head of human resources will