PHNOM PENH (September 23, 2013) – The Overseas Press Club of Cambodia (OPCC) strongly condemns the attacks on Cambodian and foreign journalists covering the aftermath of Cambodia’s disputed election.
On Sunday night, reporters and photographers covering the forced expulsion of land rights activists from a pagoda in central Phnom Penh were attacked by a mob of unidentified plain clothes men wearing surgical masks and seemingly under the protection of a unit of military police. At least seven journalists sustained minor injuries when they were attacked with electric cattle-prods, batons, and sling-shot projectiles. A Khmer photographer for The Phnom Penh Post also had his camera and photography equipment smashed and then confiscated during the ensuing altercation.
Lights surrounding the central tourist site were cut, allowing the attacks to go forward under cover of darkness. According to reporters on the scene, journalists appeared to be specifically targeted by the mob. The attack came amid mounting tensions stemming from the disputed general election held on July 28.
Such violence is in clear contravention of the laws of the Kingdom of Cambodia.
- Articles 31 and 41 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia – the highest law of the land – guarantee the freedom of the press.
- Article 7 of the 1995 Press Law states that journalists have a responsibility to obtain news “by fair methods”. Investigative, on-the-ground reporting of pressing political issues clearly falls within this category.
- Confiscation or destruction of news gathering materials constitutes a form of pre-publication censorship, which is a violation of Article 3 of the Press Law.
The OPCC condemns the unnecessary and unacceptable violence by plain-clothes attackers, and the inaction of military police officers who refused to intervene and stop the violence.
The OPCC insists that, in line with the laws of the country, the Cambodian authorities ensure members of the press are not obstructed while doing their jobs, and that they are not unjustly harassed for going about their professional duties.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Rick Valenzuela, President, OPCC: +855-92-470702
Sebastian Strangio, Treasurer, OPCC, +855-17-850315