Saturday, November 23, 2013

Cambodia - What can really be done against impunity? Show time!

Source: Reporters Without Borders - Sat, 23 Nov 2013 
Author: Reporters Without Borders

Images of the five individuals profiled in the 2013 International Dayto End Impunity campaign

Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Reporters Without Borders and its partner organization, the Cambodian Centre for Independent Media (CCIM), have written a joint op-ed on impunity in Cambodia that is to be published in the Cambodia Daily newspaper tomorrow, International Day to End Impunity.

Cambodia fell 26 places in the 2013 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index from its position in 2012, and exhibits an unacceptable level of impunity as regards threats and physical violence against journalists.
What can really be done against impunity? Show time!

For the past twenty years, eleven journalists have been killed and none of the perpetrators have been brought to Justice. The case of reporter Heng Serei Oudom, found dead in the truck of his car last year after he was hacked six times, is one more example of the culture of impunity that still prevails in Cambodia. In this case, two suspects were found, one admitted to be aware of the killing, the trial demonstrated the killing happened in their house but the judge did not have enough evidence of their culpability. Both of them were released last August. They stayed almost a year in prison and this is the longest punishment one has seen so far for the killing of a journalist in Cambodia. There is also the possibility that these two suspects are only scapegoats.

The most recent high-profile case was the murder in 2008 of Khim Sambo. Just two weeks before the national elections and after criticising high-ranking officials in the incumbent Cambodian People’s party, the opposition-affiliated newspaper journalist was shot and killed by two men on a motorbike. No one was arrested. Was he killed for nothing? Did anyone take his work over?

The rampant impunity in Cambodia shows the government and the powerful have no intention to respect the rule of law or protect human rights.

Journalists are not the only victims of crimes going unpunished as a result of impunity. In 2013, dozens of people have been brought to the court simply because they were speaking too loud. Yorm Bopha is one of them.The clock reversed: instead of bringing culprits to courts, the police arrested their victims. This is possible when one knows he can get away with it and nobody will denounce it. Some journalists have been censoring themselves for a long time. Therefore, they stopped publishing the reports that matter. Have you noticed? Some of the best reports are made by local and international NGOs thanks to their local partners. Not necessarily by newspapers and journalism. Of course, constraints of time are playing. But in Cambodia, constraints of ownership, fear and capacity are also part of the game.

And now, activists and a generation of fearless young journalists are taking over the role of informing people worldwide about their situation. And it works. In 2013 only, three Cambodian citizens were awarded international prizes for their work. For the past two year, the ASEAN chairmanship and the elections of the National Assembly gave the opportunity to expose Cambodia worldwide. But what will happen next year to make the international community bother about the situation? Cambodians need to know and have that right. Independent media is about all of this; telling what is not otherwise told but also making it possible for the media to do so without any conflict of interest. At Voice of Democracy, it is a daily challenge that reporters are overcoming. But they are not the only ones. Yorm Bopha is also part of them. It is the duty of journalists to inform and NGOs to defend, fight and promote.

But today, Cambodia counts over 3,000 NGOs. This makes more than 1 for Cambodian people. While it should be reasonably doable to help, it sometimes creates a cacophony as everyone has an agenda. As a result, the information flow is now complex for too many purposes. Civil society actors need to agree on. This can be done, for example, by accessing more information and compare it to other. Organizations, such as Reporters Without Borders, need steady accounts from the ground to be able to step in and advocate at an international level. There too, resources and funds are limited. Local partners are crucial in getting verified information to this level. When public service does not exist, sharing information is crucial; it is not only about the fact that some people do not speak out, it also linked to the fact that Cambodian people are still among the poorest in the world, their lands are grabbed, their forest is lost and their natural resources will be scarce if impunity is not stopped.

Explaining the situation to Cambodians should become the role of reporters again, together with a whole generation young people working in the media industry. Every citizen asking for an explanation should be able to find an answer and none of them should be begging for justice. This is not a matter of "culture". It is one of respect. People cannot die silently, for nothing.

For these reasons and because it is urgent, we are asking the government to organize a meeting with local and international NGO and institutions representatives to debate about access to information and the role each one should play in it. It is not about drafting another law that will not be implemented. It is about knowing what Cambodia wants to know. We know how to do it; the government needs to start explaining.

Pa Ngoun Teang, Executive Director - CCIM & Clothilde Le Coz, Correspondent - RSF


Anonymous said...

In this case if your organization
and others can convince the foreign countries to stop support this current illegal government regime. Discontinue provide money
or other assistances this government will respect and comply with the law, rule and regulation absolutely. They will stop breaching and violating the law and committing any crime automatically.

When they have plentiful money they have more power. When they have more power they are afraid
nothing. They can do whatever they
want nobody can stop them. As some doctors or professors created a monster and feed them well everyday. When it grows up
and strong enough it becomes wild
and then eat the creators nobody
can stop that monster. Is that dangerous for Cambodia or not if some foreign countries keep supporting and feeding this monster against with the Cambodian
people's will without consideration because of their own

Please stop them on time otherwise
Cambodia will get more suffer then ever.

Anonymous said...

How to combat impunity. The root of impunity is easily radicated. It is implanted in a country with its innocent, careless and poor citizens like Cambodia. A government that wants to escape from punishment, and to protect itself from power disorder tries to control the law without enforcement. Normally, members of a government are corrupted and want to get away from punishment on them, try to replace enforcement by compromise. For example, an authority steals a portion of employee's salary, his superior issues a statement that from now on if you get caught stealing again, you will be punished. By law stealer must be punished at the time of stealing with zero tolerance. If we don't enforce or partially enforce, impunity will reign for ever. Think about it. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

In the small and undeveloped countries in the world use the impunity as a tool to get away from punishment. If we the people really want to abate or cease the impunity, we all must voice out until the government and the justice department change their mind toward correction. As we all know impunity is a cover up of corruption of the law. If all and every one talk about it every day and speak with one voice of nationalism, it will not be long the government will find way to remove or abate the problems. We should request over and over again to impose the strict enforcement of the law. In this case media must engage in conjunction with nationalists shoulder to shoulder to address these problems. United we stand.