Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith has pledged to meet with Daun Penh District Governor Sok Sambath to discuss the targeting of journalists by hired district security guards, said UNESCO country representative Anne Lemaistre, who met with the minister on Friday.
The minister is also keen on working with UNESCO and the UN human rights office to organise safety training for journalists, possibly using the Information Ministry as a venue, she told the Post yesterday.
Kanharith could not be reached yesterday to confirm whether he had set up a meeting with Sambath.
When asked whether he had been contacted by the minister, Sambath said “I don’t know about that”, before hanging up.
His deputy, Sok Penh Vuth, who is often seen taking a hands-on role directing guards during crackdowns, said the district authority had not met with Kanharith nor received a letter from him.
Untrained security guards employed by the district have been used extensively to control demonstrations and enforce protests bans, particularly in the vicinity of Freedom Park, since last July’s national election. Recently, they have begun singling out journalists and those with cameras for attack.
On May 4, the Information Ministry officially condemned the harassment of journalists in a statement.
Lemaistre said she met with Kanharith on Friday because he was unable to attend World Press Freedom day events on May 3.
“We wanted to attract the attention of the minister on the facts … that a very specific, targeted [group] of security guards from the municipality have been identified by the journalists. And so our plea to the minister was to have a meeting with the governor of Daun Penh district. And the minister agreed,” she said.
“He was very clear, he said: ‘I’m going to meet the journalists this afternoon, I’m going to send a letter to the governor, I’m going to talk to the governor.’ So we went out very happy.”
The Post was unable to verify if Kanharith’s meeting with journalists occurred.
UNESCO was also considering the purchase of protective equipment, such as gas masks, protective vests and helmets, for Cambodian journalists, Lemaistre said.
The Cambodian Center for Independent Media (CCIM) said yesterday that it had sent a letter to City Hall asking authorities to stop attacks against journalists and for Daun Penh officials to publicly apologise for past incidents.
The centre also wrote to Minister of Justice Ang Vongvathana asking for an investigation into the case of Lay Samean, who reports for its Voice of Democracy radio service and required surgery after being beaten at an opposition rally earlier this month.
The organisation will file a complaint to the municipal court next week, it said.