A provincial governor has warned a radio journalist for reporting on land disputes and illegal logging, accusing him of inciting disaffection among the people.
Governor Moung Poy, of the eastern province of Ratanakirri, accused Ratha Visal, a reporter for Radio Free Asia (RFA), of raising land dispute issues with the hill-tribe villagers in the Oyadav district, making it difficult for the local authority to deal with the villagers’ complaints.
Visal was invited with a rights activist to attend a meeting on 30 November at the Ratanakirri provincial office to talk about a land dispute with the villagers.
In the meeting, Visal asked a critical but unanswered question: “Have there been sales of community land and cases of illegal logging in the province?”
According to Visal, some officials were unhappy with the question and proceeded to threaten him. He was told to seek the governor’s permission the next time he wanted to write about the issues.
“The authorities asked me to the meeting just to scold in front of other officials and threaten me to no longer report their scandals,” said Visal.
RFA said the governor has been unhappy with its reports on events in the province and is seeking to control information before it is broadcast.
SEAPA shares the assertion of our local partner, the Cambodian Association for the Protection of Journalists (CAPJ), that such an act is an infringement of freedom of expression.
According to CAPJ, which is also an affiliate member of the International Federation of Journalists, such threats that are designed to intimidate and curb sources of information also violate Article 3 of the Press Law (1995), which upholds the independence of the press and states that pre-publication censorship shall be prohibited.
CAPJ is thus demanding that the governor and his provincial officials “immediately stop . . . intimidating and threatening journalists.”
“RFA” is a Washington-based radio that broadcasts on short wave and rebroadcasts on “Beehive Radio” FM 105. It is one of the most popular and credible radio stations with a wide reach, covering various issues, such as land disputes and illegal logging.