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Dissident papers form new association

Dissident papers form new association

C AMBODIA'S more dissident newspapers, facing tough times fighting against goverment

lawsuits, have combined to form their own journalists association.

The Voice of Khmer Youth, New Liberty News, Khmer Ideal, Khmer Conscience, Wat Phnom

News, Our Society, New Forces, Prohm Bayon and Newsreel newspapers will make up the

Association of Independent Journalists.

Chan Ratana, editor of the Voice of Khmer Youth, said the group recently submitted

an application for permission to start the association from the Ministry of Information.

In advance, he has already advertised in his paper for staff to work in his association.

Leng Sochea, the ministry's director of the press department, said he knew of no

written request from the group but said the ministry would not have any objection

to a new association once an application was completed.

Ratana said that the association's president would be elected at a congress.

He rejected the suggestion that some politicians were funding the association, saying:

"Only the ruling parties have a lot of money but they won't give to us because

we criticize them every day."

He said each newspaper would pay a $40 monthly membership fee, and the association

would appeal for funding from NGOs.

The new association will mean there will be three journalists' associations in Cambodia,

following the June formation of the League of Cambodian Journalists (LCJ) in a breakaway

from the Khmer Journalists Association (KJA).

While the LCJ is widely seen as representing the more pro-government newspapers,

and the KJA the politically-neutral ones, the new association's members are generally

anti-goverment.

Early this year, Ratana was convicted of misinformation for an article critical of

the First Prime Minister, and sentenced to a year in jail and a five million riel

($2,100) fine, and had his newspaper ordered permanently closed.

On Oct 6, the Appeal Court changed the original charge to defamation but upheld the

original sentence. Ratana is now preparing a further appeal to the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, Khmer Ideal editor Thun Bun Ly lost an Appeal Court hearing on Oct 13

against his earlier conviction for defamation of the Prime Ministers. Facing a five

million riel fine - or a year in prison - and the closure of his newspaper, he is

also taking his case to the Supreme Court.

Lined up for the next Appeal Court case is Hen Vipheak, editor of New Liberty News,

convicted in May by the municipal court for misinformation.

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