Cambodian radio journalist held for covering land dispute

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the Cambodian authorities to immediately release a provincial radio station owner held for the past nine days in connection with his coverage of a land dispute, to drop all charges against him, and to restore his radio station’s licence.

Sok Oudom, the owner and manager of Rithisen radio and website in Kampong Chhnang City, 95 km north of Phnom Penh, is facing a possible two-year prison sentence for “incitement to cause chaos” under article 495 of the criminal code, a charge on which he has been held since 13 May.

By way of trying to cause chaos, Sok Oudom simply broadcast a report about a land conflict between the residents of a village and a local military official, who reacted by filing a complaint against him with the Kampong Chhnang provincial authorities.

On the same day the report was broadcast, the information ministry ordered the withdrawal of Rithisen’s licence on the grounds of “exaggerated news reporting” although he had not yet been charged.

“We call on the Kampong Chhnang provincial authorities to release Sok Oudom and drop the charges against him,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk. “We also urge the Cambodian government to restore Rithisen’s licence, because it was just trying to provide its listeners with reliable and independent reporting. The Cambodian authorities must stop suppressing media freedom in order to impose their propaganda.”

Sovann Rithy, a news website editor in Phnom Penh, was arrested on the same charge of “incitement to cause chaos” on 7 April simply because he reported a comment that Prime Minister Hun Sen had made that day about the coronavirus crisis.

Cambodia is ranked 144th out of 180 countries and territories in RSF's 2020 World Press Freedom Index.

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Updated on 22.05.2020