News / Asia

Cambodia Information Ministry Joins UN in Condemning Media Attacks

A Cambodian woman takes a photo of riot police standing behind bard wire at Freedom Park in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, May 1, 2014.
A Cambodian woman takes a photo of riot police standing behind bard wire at Freedom Park in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, May 1, 2014.
Robert Carmichael
United Nations officials and other groups are voicing concern about months of heavy-handed security measures against journalists and photographers in Cambodia's capital.

The government has enforced a ban on public assemblies in Phnom Penh since January. For months now, security guards hired by the municipality of Phnom Penh have attacked journalists and photographers covering protests and rallies and damaged or stolen their equipment.

The guards are enforcing the government's January 4 ban on public gatherings, a measure aimed at preventing the political opposition and labor groups from protesting the ruling party. But under Cambodian law, the crackdown against journalists covering the rallies is illegal.

On Friday, security guards, backed by police, used sticks and batons against members of the news media covering a gathering by opposition activists that was banned by the government.   A Cambodian reporter was injured in the attack.

The head of the U.N. rights office in Cambodia, Wan Hea Lee, condemned the violence on Saturday. She said the government has an obligation to investigate the attacks its personnel have made on the media in recent months and prosecute those responsible.

She said any attack on the media has broad consequences for democracy in Cambodia.

“[It] affects the ability of the entire society to obtain the information it needs in order to keep alive the notion of democracy and participation, the inclusive society that Cambodia aspires to become. Impunity does not take place in a vacuum - impunity, in cases of attacks against journalists, occurs in a situation where impunity is possible, period,” said Wan Hea Lee.

On Sunday, the Ministry of Information released a statement in which it effectively admitted that matters had gone too far.

The ministry statement condemned “all forms of threatening, intimidation, seizing of material and insulting of journalists," and said it considers these actions as "serious violations of Cambodia’s press freedom.”

The ministry called on state security agents to respect the right of journalists to carry out their job. However it made no mention of prosecuting those who have inflicted violence in the past.

Sebastian Strangio, vice-president of the Overseas Press Club of Cambodia, which represents foreign journalists and photographers as well as some Cambodians, welcomed the government statement, but questioned its effectiveness at stemming future acts of violence.

“Well, we welcome the statement. We welcome the condemnation of these attacks on journalists. The question now is whether this order is going to filter down to the district level authorities, who are thought to be behind a lot of these attacks. That remains to be seen,” said Strangio.

The actions come at a time of heightened political tension in Cambodia. The country's political opposition has refused to take its seats in parliament in protest of a general election last July that it claims was marred by fraud but that official results indicated the ruling party won by a narrow margin.

Although the two parties came close to a deal last month that would have resolved their differences, that now appears to have collapsed.

Campaigning has begun for a May 18 ballot in which local councilors will vote to appoint the members of two tiers of higher-level councils.

You May Like

UN Fears Rights Violations in China-backed Projects

UNHCHR investigates link between financing development and ignoring safeguards for human rights More

Boko Haram Violence Tests Nigerians’ Faith in Buhari

New president has promised to stem insurgency; he’s scheduled to meet with President Obama at White House July 20 More

Social Media Network Wants Privacy in User’s Hands

Encryption's popularity in messaging is exploding; now it's the foundation of a new social network More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugeesi
X
Carolyn Weaver
July 06, 2015 6:47 PM
In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.

VOA Blogs