Cambodia’s media “is in a perilous state,” the U.N. said in a research report, noting pressure through the criminal justice system and harassment against women.
The report, State of Press Freedom in Cambodia, examined developments in the sector and highlighted concerns among journalists in the country as told via interviews, workshops and a small survey.
The U.N.’s human rights office said it had documented 23 cases of journalists facing criminal charges since January 2017, and that all respondents to a small survey of 35 journalists had faced some sort of interference in their work.
The report also raised concerns about most media being pro-government and owned by the country’s business and political elite. It highlighted the coverage of NagaWorld casino workers’ protests, and how government-aligned Fresh News “selected photos appeared to be motivated by a desire to discredit the strike and the strikers.”
“Independent journalism, critical of the Government, is facing restrictions on freedom of expression, while pro-Government media, reporting benevolently on authorities’ measures, enjoy access to areas that their independent colleagues are barred from,” the report, released late Wednesday, said.
It added that “women are hugely under-represented in journalism in Cambodia” — possibly making up as little as 10% of the workforce — and that this can contribute to the social stereotyping of women that is reinforced in official statements.
Eighteen women journalists — some surveyed and others interviewed — all said they had faced gender-based discrimination or violence. Three said they had been directly harassed by male officials while doing their work, including one journalist whose blouse was ripped by a security official.
The government’s response, included in the report, said the Information Ministry supported women, but it had “never received complaints from female journalists who have been victims of harassment.”
— Michael Dickison
Parliament, Land Ministry Ask for Boeng Tamok Solution
The National Assembly and Land Ministry have asked Phnom Penh City Hall to find a solution for Boeng Tamok residents worried the filling of the lake would affect their livelihoods.
The residents have been petitioning national institutions asking for assurances that they will not be affected or evicted by the filling of Boeng Tamok, which has been cut up into plots and transferred to government institutions, influential businesspersons and the well-connected elite.
The Land Ministry in a July 26 letter forwarded a residents’ petition to Phnom Penh City Hall, asking it to find a solution for the residents. The National Assembly sent a similar letter on July 19 asking for similar intervention from the capital’s administration and to report back about any action taken.
Prak Sophea, a Boeng Tamok community representative, said residents wanted land titles.
“We do not obstruct development — samdech can have development in the middle of the lake. But don’t let samdech’s officers develop on our shelters and our houses. Such development amounts to the development on our tears,” she said, referring to Prime Minister Hun Sen.
Around 16 residents from the area are facing a court complaint filed by district security. Seven were expected to be questioned in court on August 2, 3, 4 and 9. Two residents were questioned on Tuesday, Sophea said, but hearings on Wednesday and Thursday were delayed.
— Khut Sokun