Cambodia Threatens to Close Two Papers
and Expel Foreign Journalists

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October 5, 1998

 

His Excellency Hun Sen
Second Prime Minister
Phnom Penh, Cambodia

 

Your Excellency,

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is greatly alarmed at your government's recent threats to close two newspapers and expel foreign journalists.

The October 4 edition of the pro-government, Khmer-language daily newspaper, Rasmei Kampuchea (Light of Cambodia), quoted government spokesperson and Secretary of State for Information Khieu Khanarith saying that the government of Cambodia plans to shut down two independent English-language newspapers in Phnom Penh, The Cambodia Daily, and the bi-weekly Phnom Penh Post. The story also said that British and American journalists would be temporarily expelled from the country.

The front-page article in Rasmei Kampuchea directly criticized the correspondent for the German news agency Deutsche Presse-Agentur for being anti-government and accused The Cambodia Daily of biased coverage of an alleged assassination attempt against Cambodian leader Hun Sen. It also said that the Phnom Penh Post is "a publication that has always been against the Royal Government."

In the article, Khanarith was quoted as saying, "The masses are angry at British and American journalists and they will have to leave the country because we cannot protect them." The information ministry has confirmed that Khanarith made the statements contained in the article.

Journalists in Phnom Penh are taking the threats seriously. They say that Khanarith's statements reflect growing tension between the press and your government in the aftermath of national elections in July, which press accounts reported to have been flawed.

As an organization dedicated to the defense of our colleagues worldwide, we view these statements, coming from a high-ranking government official, as a serious threat to press freedom in Cambodia. The two threatened newspapers have long been recognized as virtually the only local sources of independent coverage of Cambodian affairs; silencing them would have dire ramifications for all journalists in Cambodia.

We urge you to act immediately to retract the threats made by Khanarith and to guarantee that all journalists will be free to practice their profession in Cambodia free from harassment and intimidation.

We await your response.

 

Sincerely,

Ann K. Cooper

Executive Director



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His Excellency Hun Sen
Second Prime Minister
Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Via Fax: 011-855-232-6144