There has been a dramatic rise in threats against journalists this year, with a parallel increase in arrests and legal challenges, the Club of Cambodian Journalists (CCJ) announced over the weekend.
“This year we have seen 12 cases of threats against journalists, compared to just four in 2014,” the CCJ said in a statement on Saturday. “Some journalists were beaten up and arrested and detained, and in some cases equipment including cameras and voice recorders was confiscated.”
Five journalists were sued this year, compared to just two in 2014, the statement added.
Most of the bullying of the press was happening outside the capital, according to CCJ general secretary Puy Kea.
“We have received complaints from provincial reporters who have tried to investigate businesspeople connected to illegal logging,” he said yesterday. “They have received threats and intimidation as a result.”
In one case highlighted by the CCJ, an Apsara TV journalist got a threatening phone call from the owner of a Siem Reap snooker hall whom he filmed in June as part of a report into a drugs raid in the town. In another, two Voice of Democracy reporters were beaten up and had their cameras smashed by security personnel as they were trying to cover a protest outside Phnom Penh Municipal Hall in August.
The CCJ statement also acknowledged the shady methods sometimes employed by those claiming to be journalists. While the number of journalists arrested this year has leapt – increasing threefold from seven in 2014, to 21 this year – 13 of these cases related to corrupt activities by reporters, the statement says.
“We have seen journalists arrested this year for using their position to threaten people for money,” the CCJ statement said. “We are concerned about reporters who behave unprofessionally, and people who pretend to be journalists, both of which damage the reputation of professionals.”
In one case, in excess of 10 people who claimed to be journalists pursued a truck carrying timber and demanded the owner hand each of them $20 or face negative publicity. But the timber company owner ordered his employees to detain the men who were later dealt with by police.
Corrupt practices aside, Cambodia can be a risky place to be a reporter. According to media monitoring group Reporters Without Borders (RSF), it is the second most dangerous country in the world for reporters covering environmental issues.
Cambodia is also close to the bottom of RSF’s global index of press freedom, ranked 144 out of 180 countries surveyed.
Additional reporting by Morn Vanntey