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12 Oct 2020

Sun Narin, VOA Khmer

Cambodia: CSOs & media groups see a threat to freedoms following recent conviction of a journalist quoting PM's direct speeches about COVID-19 responses

"Cambodia's Sentencing of Journalist Over COVID-19 Comment a Threat to Freedoms, Media Groups Say", 10 October 2020

The conviction of a journalist who reported on comments that Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen made publicly about COVID-19 is a threat to all reporters covering the pandemic, local media groups say.

A Phnom Penh court gave Sovann Rithy an 18-month sentence … but ruled that the journalist, who has been in custody since April, be released for the remainder of the sentence.

Kuch Kimlong, a spokesperson for Phnom Penh Municipal Court, confirmed that Rithy, 31, who runs the news outlet TVFB on Facebook, was convicted of incitement and that he would be released…

The Cambodian Journalists Alliance, a nonprofit media organization, said it was disappointed by the conviction, but welcomed the court’s decision to suspend the prison sentence.

“This is the first time a journalist has been convicted for their coverage related to the COVID-19 pandemic. This is a threat to the freedoms of Sovann Rithy, as well as other professional journalists who are reporting on COVID-19,” said Nop Vy, executive director of the group.

The Cambodian Center for Independent Media also warned the conviction could impact the way reporters work.

“This sentence can affect the right to freedom (of journalists) and a journalist’s work, since they just report public speeches of the prime minister,” Ith Sothoeuth, media director at the nonprofit, said.

… The Rithy verdict and the wider government clampdown on freedom of expression has had an effect on some local journalists.

Khan Leakhena, a reporter for the local news website Voice of Democracy, said it was worrying that journalists who reported the news truthfully were being convicted…