Several NGOs have voiced concern over continuing crimes against journalists and human rights advocates, urging authorities to take sterner action against perpetrators.
A joint statement by 42 NGO’s on Thursday said such crimes, including killings, continue to occur in Cambodia and many perpetrators go unpunished.
“[We] urge the authorities to take immediate steps to ensure that investigations into such cases are done efficiently, independently and transparently,” the statement, issued to mark Friday’s International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists, said.
It noted that since 1994, at least 13 journalists were killed in Cambodia and the perpetrators in 11 cases have not been brought to justice.
The statement added that although there were no killings in the past two years, those in the media are targeted by litigation, while some newspapers were closed.
“We appeal to the authorities to punish those who commit crimes against journalists after investigating cases in an independent and transparent manner,” the NGOs said.
Moeun Chhean Naridh, director of the Cambodia Institute for Media Studies, said that he welcomes the appeal by the NGOs.
“If the authorities do not find and punish those who kill journalists, this will make them fear carrying out their jobs,” he noted. “Attacks on journalists is a crime.”
Mr Chhean Naridh said that good accountability, good governance, and the rule of law should be applied to try to find suspects in the torturing and killing of journalists who are the eyes and ears of the government.
“If journalists continue to be killed or tortured, it will make them too scared to report the truth about what is happening in society,” he said. “The authorities must continue to search for the perpetrators so that threats to journalists will decrease.”
Pen Bona, Club of Cambodian Journalists president, said that the joint statement touches on old cases, noting that in recent years there were no new cases of such crimes.
“Now freedom of expression for journalist keeps improving,” Mr Bona said.
He noted that he was not aware of the previous cases and why the journalists were killed.
“However, if the authorities find the perpetrators it will be good,” Mr Bona said. “From now on please make sure journalists are not killed.”
He said that if journalists make mistakes in their articles, they should be asked to make corrections or be taken to court.
Am Sam Ath, monitoring manager with human rights group Licadho, said that since 1994, 13 journalists were killed with many cases going unpunished.
He added that some journalists were also assaulted and filed complaints with the court.
“I think that prolonging investigations and not punishing those who killed the journalists, will have a negative impact on society and scare journalists into not carrying out their duties,” Mr Sam Ath noted. “I think that we should eliminate the culture of corruption or partisanship in Cambodia and the authorities should speed up investigations into those who committed the killings.”