Cambodian journalists have petitioned for the dropping of charges and release of two former Radio Free Asia reporters arrested on espionage charges during a crackdown on political opposition and independent media outlets last November.
According to Phnom Penh Post report, the petition which was launched via change.org was addressed to Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana and Phnom Penh Municipal Court President Taing Sunlay.
Sun Narin, one of the organizers of the petition, said that journalists didn’t want the case to set a precedent for the courts.
The two former RFA reporters, Oun Chhin and Yeang Sothearin, were detained in last November for allegedly setting up an unlicensed karako production studio, but authorities later said they were being investigated for setting up a studio for the US-funded RFA which the pair has denied.
They were provisionally charged with providing a foreign state with information which undermines national defence which carries a prison term of 7-15 years.
The pair’s lawyer, Keo Vanny, said he has already filed a motion for bail at the Supreme Court after the two defendants were denied bail by the lower courts.
Meanwhile, four press organizations – Reporters Without Borders, the Cambodian Centre for Independent Media, the Southeast Asian Press Alliance and the Overseas Press Club of Cambodia – issued a joint statement on Wednesday (Feb 14) calling for the release of the two detained reporters.
The statement said their continued imprisonment “is cruel, unjustified, and contravenes commitments to uphold the rights to freedom of expression as outlined in the Cambodian Constitution.”