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Former RFA reporters charged with pornography, lawyer says

Former RFA reporter Yeang Sothearin leaves the Phnom Penh Municipal Court earlier this month after being questioned about the pornography charges.
Former RFA reporter Yeang Sothearin leaves the Phnom Penh Municipal Court earlier this month after being questioned about the pornography charges. Pha Lina

Former RFA reporters charged with pornography, lawyer says

The lawyer for two former RFA journalists charged with “espionage” said on Thursday morning they have been additionally charged with production of pornography, seemingly in relation to widely disseminated photos that purportedly show one of them in compromising positions.

Keo Vanny, who represents former Radio Free Asia reporters Oun Chhin and Yeang Sothearin, said they were charged two weeks ago for producing pornography in relation to photos that were published shortly after their arrest by pro-government media outlets in November.

The photos show a man, purported to be Chhin, performing and filming a sex act, though the man in the photos cannot be conclusively identified. Sothearin does not feature anywhere in the photos. The duo was questioned earlier this month in relation to the photos.

“I received the information about the charge from the court on Wednesday,” Vanny said. “Through my discussions with them, they said they had not done it.”

Vanny said he was not sure about the exact charges, but that it could be Article 39 of the Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation Law, which carries a prison sentence of up to one year for production of pornography.

As of Thursday evening, Vanny said he still had not been handed over the case file because an investigating judge had not been assigned, so he was still unsure of the details.

“We submitted an application for the documents, but it was rejected by the court administration,” he said.

Sothearin and Chhin are facing the heftier charge of “espionage” after being accused of attempting to continue reporting for the US-based RFA after it shuttered its operations in Cambodia amid a wider government crackdown on independent media outlets.

If convicted, they could face seven to 15 years in prison.

Court spokesman Y Rin would only confirm that an investigating judge was looking into the case, but refused to provide details of the exact charges or name of the prosecutor in charge of the case.

A family member of Chhin, who requested anonymity for fear of reprisals from their employer, said the charges were made up and that the entire investigation, including the espionage charges, was so far based on no evidence.

“It is more than four months and they have not found any documents or evidence to incriminate them but now it has emerged there is another crime.”

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