Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Newfound outrage questioned

Newfound outrage questioned

Seng Chan stands with his camera in front of his residence after being set upon by the crowd at Freedom Park in Phnom Penh earlier this week
Seng Chan stands with his camera in front of his residence after being set upon by the crowd at Freedom Park in Phnom Penh earlier this week. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Newfound outrage questioned

The government and a local press club’s reaction to an attack on a state-media cameraman earlier this week stands in stark contrast to their response following what many believe was a government-orchestrated assault on a group of journalists in September.

The differing response highlights continued discrimination against independent and pro-opposition media, media analysts said yesterday.

National Television of Kampuchea (TVK) cameraman Seng Chan was accused by a monk of being a government lackey at the opposition’s Human Rights Day protest in Phnom Penh on Tuesday and was attacked by the crowd before being escorted to a police station by party security.

Following the event, Information Minister Khieu Kanharith lambasted the opposition on his Facebook page.

“Their security attacked a reporter like he was a dog or a cat so [they should] stop blaming us for not broadcasting their story,” he wrote.

State news agency AKP on Wednesday reported the incident, citing Kanharith and a statement from the Club of Cambodian Journalists (CCJ) that condemned the attack and called on the authorities to take legal action against the perpetrators.

On September 22, reporters from numerous foreign and local media outlets were attacked with slingshots, batons and electric prods by plainclothes thugs in face masks as police looked on while covering a peaceful land rights vigil at Wat Phnom.

But in the aftermath, the Ministry of Information, state media and the CCJ remained silent, despite the incident being condemned by global watchdog the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Pa Nguon Teang, head of the Cambodian Center for Independent Media, said the differing treatment of the incidents suggested government discrimination against independent or pro-opposition journalists.

“I think it [was] clear when the pro-government media and Khieu Kanharith didn’t say anything about the incident that happened at Wat Phnom, it [was] because they consider themselves as part of the government, and they know clearly that the incident was created by the government,” he said.

“But in this [recent] incident, the opposition party organised it, so they expressed something … to try to gain political benefit.” Nguon Teang added that the CCJ, though supposedly independent, were “careful” not to tread on the government’s toes.

Mouen Chhean Nariddh, director of the Cambodia Institute for Media Studies, said that as the attack at Wat Phnom “was politically motivated”, the government could not respond in the same way. “It’s sad, because I think as minister of information, [Kanharith] should have taken some action. He [should] respond strongly to any attacks against journalists.”

Kanharith yesterday defended his decision not to speak out about the Wat Phnom attack, though he did not explain why state media failed to report on the incident.

“The call was already made by different associations [following the incident]. For TVK, it is my duty to protect my staff,” he said in an email.

Chhay Sophal, a CCJ board member, referred the Post to a September 25 statement that called for political parties to avoid threatening journalists but did not specify any incidents or directly mention the Wat Phnom attack.

When asked why the CCJ released a detailed statement calling for investigation immediately after Monday’s incident in comparison, Sophal said the September statement was designed to address a number of incidents.

“[It involved] a group of journalists … but the day before yesterday, it was only TVK and that’s why we released another statement.”

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY VONG SOKHENG

MOST VIEWED

  • Proof giants walked among us humans?

    For years a debate has waged about whether certain bas relief carvings at the 12th-century To Prohm Temple, one of the most popular attractions at the Angkor Wat Temple Complex in Siem Reap province, depicted dinosaurs or some rather less exotic and more contemporary animal,

  • New US bill ‘is a violation of Cambodian independence’

    After a US congressmen introduced bipartisan legislation that will enact sanctions on Cambodian officials responsible for “undermining democracy” in the Kingdom, government officials and the ruling Cambodian People’s Party on Sunday said they regarded the potential action as the “violation of independence and sovereignty

  • Long way to go before Cambodia gets a ‘smart city’

    Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Battambang will struggle to attain smart city status without adopting far reaching master plans, according to officials tasked with implementing the program. The brainchild of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), the smart city program seeks to link up

  • Japan bank buys major stake in ANZ Royal Bank

    Japan's largest bank acquired more than half of ANZ’s shares in Cambodia on Thursday, according to a statement from Kith Meng’s Royal Group. Japan's JTrust Bank, announced that they had acquired a 55% of stake in ANZ Royal Bank. According to a Royal Group