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October 1, 2021

Cambodian reporter sentenced to a year in prison two days after being arrested

Youn Chhiv reported reported that land was being seized in villages and plantations in Kiri Sakor district (photo: "យួន ឈីវ" / Facebook - RSF).
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the sham justice to which a local reporter in southwestern Cambodia’s Koh Kong province was subjected at the ruling party’s behest in a blatant political reprisal after he reported that the authorities were seizing land from people who had farmed it for years.

It is hard to imagine a more summary form of justice. After being taken in for questioning by police on 28 September, Koh Kong Hot News publisher Youn Chhiv was tried by a provincial court yesterday, just two days later, without being defended by a lawyer, and was sentenced to a year in prison and a fine of 2 million riels (420 euros) on a charge of “incitement to disturb social security.”

 

By way of incitement, Youn Chhiv reported that in villages and plantations in Kiri Sakor, the district where he lives, land was being seized in violation of the prime minister’s declared policy. He blamed this on the province’s deputy governor, Sok Sothy, saying he “is cruel and abuses citizens.” It was on these words that the prosecution based its entire case.

 

Voice of Democracy (VOD), a Cambodian radio station and website, quoted Vei Phirum, a spokesperson for the prosecution at the provincial court, as insisting that the case was “fully and thoroughly” investigated before being brought to trial.

 

“What with his arbitrary arrest, the absence of an investigation and trial without a lawyer, Youn Chhiv has been subjected to a caricature of justice determined solely by political concerns,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk. “We call on the Koh Kong court’s judges to immediately overturn this iniquitous decision in order to restore a semblance of credibility to the Cambodian judicial apparatus. Journalists trying to do their job must stop being the victims of the ruling political caste’s petty deals.”

 

In a leaked audio recording whose authenticity has been confirmed by VOD, defence minister Tea Banh, who also heads the ruling party’s “working group” for Koh Kong, is heard ordering local officials to respond to Youn Chhiv’s report by prosecuting him. He is also heard calling for the pro-government news agency Fresh News to discredit his reporting.

 

Cambodia is ranked 144th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2021 World Press Freedom Index.