District Officials Harass Journalists Covering Protest: Union

Photo from CamboJA

Pictures deleted and press card seized, say reporters

PHNOM PENH--The Cambodian Journalists Alliance Association (CamboJA) condemned the Meanchey district authority on Friday for confiscating an identity card and pictures and videos from two reporters.

CamboJA called on the authorities to immediately stop such violations.

An Vichet, a journalist with CamboJA, and Voice of America (VOA) intern Lors Lib Lib, were covering a protest by villagers against a joint district police force demolishing their houses in Sansom Kosal 2 village.

CamboJA said district authorities confiscated Vichet’s identity card and forced him and Lib Lib to delete all their pictures and videos of the protest.

Vichet said the authorities threatened to arrest him if he refused to remove all the images in front of them.

Although Vichet tried to prove he was a journalist by showing his press card, they still forced him to delete the pictures and confiscated the card.

The authorities refused to return the press card to him, regardless of his explanation, and referred him to the card at the district office, CamboJA said.

Lib Lib had his phone confiscated and was forced to delete the photos and videos he captured from the scene.

CamboJA said the authorities asked for Lib Lib's motorbike key to search for any other cameras and phones left on his motorbike.

During the search, the authorities took another phone he kept in his bag that was left on the motorbike and deleted all the pictures before returning the phone and motorbike key to him.

Lib Lib called such a forceful action a serious violation of press freedom and the rights of journalists and an indication of media restriction.

He said that the authorities are trying to hide the truth by prohibiting the media from broadcasting real stories of citizens to the public.

Nop Vy, the executive director of CamboJA, said that confiscation of press cards and making threats to obstruct journalists from performing their duties were serious violations of press freedom, the rights of journalists and the rights of citizens to access information.

"Authorities should be more open and try to understand more about duties and responsibilities of journalists, especially professional and independent journalists, to enable them to perform their duties freely in accordance with the press law and the Constitution, which is our supreme law," he said.

The use of any form of restriction is a violation of the press law and the Constitution. That was unacceptable.

"I call on the authorities to immediately stop the acts of harassment, intimidation and threats against journalists, and instead, cooperate and pay respect to the role and performance of journalists to prove that the government truly pays attention to and respects the rights of citizens, especially the right to information," he said.

Meanchey District Governor Pich Keo Mony could not be reached by press time.

The district authority had issued a letter giving about 10 families living next to Boeung Tumpun reservoir a week to move out. People said that there was no compensation.

Authorities warned of legal and administrative action against residents who refused to leave.

On Wednesday, the authorities started using machinery to demolish some of the houses.

So Saray, 42, said he inherited the land from his mother who bought it in 1991, according to VOA Khmer.

Authorities said the houses violated state public property and to demolition was needed to maintain the state of the lake as a reservoir.

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