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Press clubs denounce attack on journalists

A police officer hits a man at a rally in Phnom Penh yesterday moments before a local journalist covering the event was attacked.
A police officer hits a man at a rally in Phnom Penh yesterday moments before a local journalist covering the event was attacked. HENG VITCHET

Press clubs denounce attack on journalists

Press freedom groups have condemned a violent attack on two reporters by security guards at a rally in Phnom Penh yesterday.

Voice of Democracy (VOD) journalist Khut Sokun was “hit and kicked” while covering a rally by Boeung Kak activists at City Hall, while guards attempted to seize and destroy VOD photographer Heng Vitchet’s camera equipment, according to a statement released by the Cambodian Centre for Independent Media, which runs VOD.

According to the statement, the pair was interviewing activists when they were confronted by about five guards who accused them of working for opposition parties and tried to destroy their gear.

Forced away from the area, the reporters regrouped at the nearby University of Health to resume their interviews but were followed by guards, who allegedly assaulted Sokun, an amputee, CCIM stated.

Footage of the attack, captured by a witness, was seized and destroyed by guards, the statement added.

In the statement, also endorsed by Reporters Without Borders and the Southeast Asian Press Alliance, CCIM executive director Pa Nguon Teang slammed the guards’ behaviour and called for them to face disciplinary action.

“I urge the government to use its legitimate powers to ensure that journalists are protected from threats and violence, to respect freedom of the press, and to bring an end to impunity for those who commit these crimes against journalists,” Teang said.

In May last year, amid protests, Information Minister Khieu Kanharith pledged action to stop journalists from being targeted by security forces.

Separately yesterday, a group of reporters in Ratanakkiri were “detained” for about 20 minutes by the province’s Forestry Administration director Vong Sokserey, reportedly upset with their coverage of illegal logging.

The reporters from Hang Meas TV, Apsara ANN and SEA TV were at the Forestry Administration’s compound photographing a van used to transport timber that had been seized by authorities when they found the gate behind them locked.

Sokserey yesterday said the gate was locked because he wanted to meet journalists in person, advise them to make their reports accurate and ask that they report any forest crimes to authorities.

“Some just reported it without asking comments from us, so they did not get accurate information and [their informant] is contradicting the facts when the story is published,” he said.

He then denied he had detained anyone, but allowed that a few journalists “escaped” through a side gate.

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