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How CPJ investigates and classifies attacks on the press



JANUARY 30, 2003

Mam Sonando, Sombok Khmum
IMPRISONED

Sonando, owner and manager of Sombok Khmum (Beehive) radio station, was arrested and formally charged with inciting crimes and discrimination and disseminating false information in connection with anti-Thai riots in the capital, Phnom Penh.

On the morning of January 29, about 400 people gathered at the Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh to protest comments attributed to popular Thai actress Suwanan Konying that Cambodia's famed Angkor Wat Temple should belong to Thailand. These comments were first published by the Light of Angkor newspaper and then circulated widely by the local media. Suwanan denies ever making the statement, and In Chan Sivutha, editor of the Light of Angkor, now concedes that the paper failed to verify the accuracy of its report.

By the evening of January 29, the protests had become violent, with demonstrators looting Thai-owned businesses and setting fire to the Thai Embassy. At least one person was killed and several people were injured, according to international news reports. Amid the protests, a live Sombok Khmum radio talk show broadcast a caller's statement that several Cambodian Embassy officials were killed in Thailand in retaliation for the protests—allegations that proved to be false. Prime Minister Hun Sen stated that the broadcast, which he said aired at about 2:30 p.m., before the violence erupted, directly incited the riots. However, station employees say the call was broadcast at night, after the fury had died down. CPJ sources who witnessed the riots do not believe that the radio broadcast directly caused the violence.

The next day, at about 7 p.m., two men went to Sonando's home and asked the journalist to accompany them to a meeting with a government official, according to the Phnom Penh­based Cambodian Center for Human Rights. However, the men instead drove the journalist to the local police station, where he was arrested. He was formally charged on January 31.

Sombok Khmum is Cambodia's only independent radio station. Sonando is a former opposition politician who headed the Sombok Khmum Party, which collapsed after losing legislative elections in 1998.

On February 1, In Chan Sivutha was also arrested and formally charged for publishing the comments that were attributed to Suwanan. On February 11, both journalists were released on bail.

On February 6, CPJ sent a letter of inquiry to the prime minister arguing that the journalists were singled out unfairly. There is no comparable effort under way to prosecute government officials who made inflammatory statements during the protests and who did little to discourage the rioting. The Cambodian government's selective prosecution appears to be an attempt to use the journalists as scapegoats for an incident that became a major diplomatic fiasco, badly damaging relations between Cambodia and Thailand.


FEBRUARY 1, 2003

In Chan Sivutha, Light of Angkor
IMPRISONED

Sivutha, editor of the Light of Angkor newspaper, was arrested and formally charged with inciting crimes and discrimination and disseminating false information in connection with the anti-Thai riots that engulfed the capital, Phnom Penh.

On the morning of January 29, about 400 people gathered at the Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh to protest comments attributed to popular Thai actress Suwanan Konying that Cambodia's famed Angkor Wat Temple should belong to Thailand. These comments were first published by the Light of Angkor and then circulated widely by the local media. Suwanan denies ever making the statement, and Sivutha now concedes that the paper failed to verify the accuracy of its report. By the evening of January 29, the protests had become violent, with demonstrators looting Thai-owned businesses and setting fire to the Thai Embassy. At least one person was killed and several people were injured, according to international news reports.

On February 1, Sivutha was arrested and formally charged for publishing the comments that were attributed to Suwanan. Earlier, on January 30, Mam Sonando, owner and manager of Sombok Khmum (Beehive) radio station, had been arrested on the same charges. On February 11, both journalists were released on bail.

On February 6, CPJ sent a letter of inquiry to the prime minister arguing that the journalists were singled out unfairly. There is no comparable effort under way to prosecute government officials who made inflammatory statements during the protests and who did little to discourage the rioting. The Cambodian government's selective prosecution appears to be an attempt to use the journalists as scapegoats for an incident that became a major diplomatic fiasco, badly damaging relations between Cambodia and Thailand.


OCTOBER 18, 2003
Posted: October 20, 2003

Chou Chetharith, Ta Prum
KILLED—UNCONFIRMED

Chetharith, a deputy editor of the royalist FUNCINPEC party's Ta Prum radio station, was killed by a gunman riding on the back of a motorcycle while the journalist was on his way to work in the capital, Phnom Penh.

According to witnesses interviewed by Agence France-Presse, Chetharith, 37, was shot in the head at point-blank range in broad daylight. Local sources tell CPJ that Ta Prum is known for its critical reporting of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, and that the station's director, Noranarith Anandayath, is an adviser to FUNCINPEC party chief Prince Norodom Ranaridhh.

On Friday, the day before the shooting, the prime minister criticized Ta Prum in the English-language Cambodia Times, accusing the station of insulting his leadership.

Chetharith's murder came ahead of scheduled three-way talks between the FUNCINPEC party, the opposition Sam Rainsy Party (SRP), and the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP). The talks were canceled after the journalist's killing. They had been aimed at ending a three-month political stalemate following the July 27 elections, when Hun Sen and his CPP failed to garner a two-third majority of the vote. By law, the CPP was required to form a coalition with opposition parties but refused to do so.

No arrests have been made in the case, and Chetarith was buried on October 20 outside Phnom Penh. Sau Phan, a deputy general of the National Police and a member of FUNCINPEC, told Agence France-Presse that an investigative committee has been formed with FUNCINPEC and CPP party members to pursue the case.