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For immediate release: July 22, 1997
Contact: A. Lin Neuman (212) 465-1004 x140; [email protected]

Cambodian Journalists Threatened by Military, Exiled Editor Reveals

New York, N.Y., July 22 --
Opposition journalists in Phnom Penh have been threatened by soldiers loyal to strongman Hun Sen since the July 5 coup, a leading Cambodian editor in exile in Bangkok told the Committee to Protect Journalists today.

Eight Cambodian journalists have sought refuge in Bangkok since the coup, and another group is awaiting sanctuary on the border. According to Pin Sam Khon, who is one of those eight journalists and the co-president of the independent Khmer Journalists Association, the authorities have made threats against opposition journalists in Phnom Penh in the wake of the coup. “The military and the police have come to our houses. They know where we live,” Pin said by phone from Bangkok.

Pin said that statements he has made in the media regarding the dangers facing journalists in Phnom Penh have drawn fire in Cambodia. “After I spoke out, they (the pro-Hun Sen military in Phnom Penh) told my staff I cannot go back. They said my life is in danger if I go back to Cambodia,” he said. Pin, who is the editor of the Khmer Ekareach [Independent] newspaper, said that his experience is not unique. “We are fearful for our lives and family.”

Since the forces loyal to Second Prime Minister Hun Sen and his Cambodian People’s Party took power, most, if not all, Khmer-language newspapers that were associated with the opposition parties and with the regime of ousted First Prime Minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh have ceased publication. What was once a vital press, albetit contentious and partisan, with as many as 50 newspapers publishing, has been reduced by fear and uncertainty to a handful of functioning papers.

The Committee to Protect Journalists, an independent and non-partisan organization devoted to press freedom has called on Hun Sen in a letter sent today to guarantee freedom of the press in Cambodia and to protect journalists from reprisals. CPJ urged Hun Sen to stand by the statement he made on July 13, when he said, “All press, including formerly critical newspapers, should quickly resume publication, because the voice of the press also plays an important role.”

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists is an independent, nonprofit organization that documents and responds to violations of press freedom worldwide. CPJ’s Web site is http://www.cpj.org.

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