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11 Apr 2020

Miriam Deprez, The Globe

Cambodia: Rights group concerns about press freedom while Phnom Penh Municipal Court charges a journalist with incitement after posting PM's comments on his Facebook page

"Cambodian journalist’s arrest part of regional crackdown on virus coverage", 10 April 2020

Human rights organisations have slammed the arrest of a Cambodian journalist who was charged with criminal incitement after posting a quote from Prime Minister Hun Sen to his personal Facebook page...

Sovann Rithy, a reporter and publisher of the TVFB social media news platform, was arrested ... after publishing a direct quote from the prime minister suggesting motorbike taxis could sell their vehicles to make their livelihood during the economic downturn caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“If motorbike-taxi drivers go bankrupt, sell your motorbikes for spending money. The government does not have the ability to help”, Rithy quoted Hun Sen as saying ...

Daniel Bastard, head of Asia-Pacific Desk for Reporters Without Borders (RSF) told ... that the arrest is part of a “clearly very worrying trend”.

“We see many governments have passed some decrees or laws under the pretext of combating false information or ‘fake news’ in order to impose some very draconian legislation.”

... Cambodian Centre for Human Rights (CCHR) executive director Chak Sopheap said Rithy’s arrest and indictment violates the fundamental right of freedom of expression. Sopheap believes the criminal case against him will have “chilling repercussions” for media freedom across Cambodia...

Human Rights Watch (HRW) deputy Asia director Phil Robertson issued a statement calling the charges “bogus” and urged the Cambodian authorities to release Rithy and others detained for expressing their online opinions about Covid-19.

“Even in Hun Sen’s Cambodia, arresting a journalist for quoting the prime minister marks a new low for press freedom,” Robertson stated...