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13 Aug 2021

Sorn Sarath, CamboJA

Cambodia: Local authorities harass journalists covering demolishment of villagers' homes for a private development project in Phnom Penh

"Journalists harassed on the job as authorities clear homes for development at Boeng Tompun", 13 August 2021

Two journalists were stopped and harassed by Phnom Penh police and security agents … while covering a land dispute between authorities and residents along Boeng Tompun lake.

That same day, dozens of Meanchey district authorities used bulldozers and other heavy machinery to clear the homes of about 11 families along the reservoir in the city’s Boeng Tompun 1 commune, one week after ordering the homes be dismantled to make way for a private development…

An Vichet, a freelance journalist … who was covering the home demolitions, said police confiscated his smartphone and press card and ordered him to delete all images he’d taken of the site.

“I was asked to show a press card and delete all photos,” he said. “They took my press card away and asked me to leave the place immediately or there would be a problem, saying this is their area, so no photography was allowed.”

Vichet said the encounter was a serious violation of press freedom and a restriction on journalists’ work.

“This activity of authorities is not hidden, it is in public, so journalists just have the role to capture the images and disseminate information to the public,” he said.

… However, Phnom Penh deputy Governor Keut Chhe said the authorities’ actions against the reporters had been legally permitted…

… Am Sam Ath, deputy director of the rights group Licadho, said no one rejects infrastructure development under peaceful conditions, but that the impact of projects on citizens must be considered, particularly during the COVID-19 crisis…