The Appeal Court will announce on December 30 whether the case against Radio Free Asia journalists Yeang Sothearin and Uon Chhin on “pornography” charges will proceed, the court said after a hearing on Monday.
The pair was arrested in November 2017 on charges of “production of pornography,” which carries a potential prison term of up to one year, and supplying a foreign state with information, punishable by up to 15 years in jail. They were released on bail in August last year.
In October, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court issued an order to reinvestigate the cases, which the pair appealed. Splitting the case, the Court of Appeal will hear the appeal against that decision on January 20 and held a closed-door session regarding the pornography charges on Monday.
After a 30-minute hearing, Judge Plang Samnang announced that the decision would be delivered next week.
Talking to reporters outside the court, Sothearin said the cases against them were part of the government’s pressure against U.S.-run Radio Free Asia.
“It is intended to mistreat those of us who worked for Radio Free Asia,” Sothearin said. “The arrests are a kind of threat to other reporters.”
Dozens of human rights organizations on Sunday urged the courts to drop the charges. “We hope that the Appeal Court’s hearing on 23 December 2019, on the charges of production of pornography, as well as the hearing on 20 January 2020 on the charges of supplying a foreign state with information prejudicial to national defence, will provide justice for the pair and the baseless charges will be dropped,” a statement signed by 37 rights organizations reads. “The case against Uon Chhin and Yeang Sothearin is one of many in which criminal charges have been used to silence independent and critical voices.”
In a separate statement, Human Rights Watch slammed intimidation of journalists. “Cambodia’s persecution of journalists is sending a message that independent, investigative reporting is not only unwelcome, but could get you thrown in jail,” deputy Asia director Phil Robertson said.