SEAPA, CAPJ protest detention of two journalists

27 July 2004
Source: Southeast Asian Press Alliance and Cambodian Association for Protection of Journalists

Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA) and its Cambodian partner Cambodian Association for Protection of Journalists (CAPJ) protest in a strongest term an arrest and detention of two journalists in Northeast Cambodia by Cambodian authorities on Sunday 25 July 2004.

Irishman Kevin Doyle, editor-in-chief of English language local newspaper “The Cambodian Daily” and Sok Rathavisal, a local reporter of US-funded international radio “Radio Free Asia”, were arrested along with ADHOC rights worker Pen Bunna and his interpreter in Mondolkiri province.

The two journalists followed the right worker who helped United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) searching for some 200 Christian Montagnards, the hill tribe people fleeing a recent religious repression from neighboring Vietnam.

SEAPA and CAPJ believe the arrest of the two journalists was a gross violation of universal human rights with regard to free expression.

“Journalists should not be arrested and detained for trying to get the true story out to the public,” said a joint statement, which was faxed to the Cambodian government today.

“We strongly urge Cambodian authorities to stop any attempt to use unjust legal means to curb press freedom so that journalists can serve their duty as a social watchdog,” said the joint statement.

Cambodia’s Penal Code allows 48-hour detention of suspects before sending them to trial. Cambodian press groups have long called for a termination of this detention clause, which could be invoked by the authorities at will to curb press freedom.

“Although the two journalists and the other two Cambodians were released in the morning of 27 July 2004 without charges, their arrest should not have been unperturbed by international community,” said the statement.

CAPJ sources said the two journalists arrived safely in nearby Ratanakiri province. They will return to Phnom Penh in the morning of Wednesday 28 July 2004.

Sok Rathavisal was quoted as saying that the accusation that they were involved with human trafficking was fake and slanderous. Foreign news agencies quoted Cambodian Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak as saying earlier on Tuesday the four people were detained for “doing thing that were not their responsibility”. Kieu said it had not been appropriate for them to be in the area.

US-funded Radio Free Asia said on Monday that it believed the arrest of the four were made to frighten Vietnamese asylum-seekers away from Cambodia and prevent the media from reporting the plight of the Montagnards, which is US allies in Vietnam war.

Cambodia Daily has been reporting aggressively on the plight of the Montagnards. Bowed to international pressure, the Cambodia government, which has forged special ties with the Vietnamese counterpart during the Vietnam War, recently allowed the Montagnards to enter Cambodia.

Call for actions by IFEX members

Please fax protest letters to the Cambodian government:
Excellency Khieu Kanharith
Cambodian Minister of Information
Via fax: 855 23 427475 and 855 23 212186

-To protest the arrest of the two journalists
-Call for termination of the detention clause in Cambodia Penal Code that allows authorities to detain journalists 48 hours without trial.

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