Civil society groups in Cambodia to form media defense network

Several civil society groups in Cambodia are planning to organize a media defense network that would provide legal aid to journalists, media reports said.

According to "The Camodia Daily", Ou Virak, director of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, said on 28 September 2009 that their organization is teaming up with the Legal Aid of Cambodia, Cambodian Justice Initiative, Cambodian Association for the Protection of Journalists, and the Cambodian Center for Independent Media, in establishing a network of lawyers that would help defend journalists in court.

On 22 September, "The Cambodia Daily" editor-in-chief Kevin Doyle and reporter Neou Vannarin were each fined US$1,000 by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court for defaming a group of military officers.

On the other hand, "Rasmei Kampuchea" and "Kampuchea Thmei Daily" issued apologies in July this year after the government filed charges against them.

In the same month, "The Moneaksika Khmer" was ordered shut down in return for the dropping of charges against its publisher, Sam Dith.

"Khmer Machas Srok" editor and publisher Hang Chakra, meanwhile, was sentenced to a year's imprisonment.

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy on 22 September lambasted PM Hun Sen's government for silencing critics. Rainsy, along with Duong Hak Sam Rithy, CAPJ vice president, spoke in a SEAPA-organized panel discussion in Bangkok on the media situation in Cambodia.

Virak admitted that forming such a group is challenging because there are not many lawyers keen on defending journalists in court and only a few are familiar with media laws.

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