Police officers are seen in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on April 15, 2021. Police in the city recently harassed journalists An Vichet and Lors Lib Lib. (AP/Heng Sinith)

Cambodian authorities force reporters to delete photos, video of protest

Bangkok, August 16, 2021 – Cambodian authorities should return all items confiscated from reporters An Vichet and Lors Lib Lib, and ensure they can work freely, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

On August 13, police officers obstructed both journalists while they were covering a protest by villagers against the demolition of homes in Phnom Penh, the capital, according to a statement and report by the Cambodian Journalists Alliance Association (CamboJA), a local advocacy and news organization, and Him Khortieth, the group’s research and advocacy manager, who communicated with CPJ via email.

Police forced An Vichet, a reporter for CamboJA, and Lors Lib Lib, a reporter for the U.S. Congress-funded broadcaster Voice of America, to delete photos and videos of the demolitions from their phones, and threatened both with legal action if they refused to comply, according to those sources.

Police confiscated An Vichet’s press card and Lors Lib Lib’s phone, and had not returned them as of today, Khortieth told CPJ.

“Cambodian authorities must return the reporting equipment and press credentials taken from journalists An Vichet and Lors Lib Lib, and stop obstructing reporters from doing their jobs,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative. “Authorities responsible for such intimidation and harassment should be identified, investigated, and held accountable.”  

The CamboJA report said that local authorities used bulldozers and other heavy equipment to demolish the homes of 11 families along a reservoir in the capital city’s Boeng Tompun 1 commune to make way for a private property development.

Khortieth told CPJ that neither reporter intended to press charges against the authorities.

Cambodia’s Ministry of Information did not immediately reply to CPJ’s emailed request for comment.