A Bad Year for Journalism

Observations from Cambodia and beyond.

The Committee to Protect Journalists says 2018 has been a hard 12 months for journalists.

At least 53 journalists were killed around the world between January 1 and December 14, 2018, of which at least 34 were singled out for murder. CPJ tracks three types of journalists’ deaths on the job: reprisal murders; deaths in combat or crossfire (11 this year, the lowest since 2011); and deaths on other dangerous assignments, such as covering protests that turn violent (eight this year). The total is up from 47 killed in all of last year, of which 18 were pinpointed for murder. A total of 50 were killed in 2016.

Cambodia hasn’t made the list since 2012, when Hang Serei Odom was hacked to death in O’Chum district, Ratanakiri province. Mr Hang worked for the Virakchun Khmer Daily and reported on illegal logging. A local military police captain and his wife were initially charged with Mr Hang’s murder, but charges were later dropped.

CPJ reports that since 1992 nine Cambodian journalists have been murdered because of their work. Local rights groups, who are less stringent about motive and more knowledgeable about local affairs, report more than a dozen. Taing Try, for example, the 49-year-old freelancer who was killed in 2014 with a single shot to the head, doesn’t make the CPJ list.

Yet while no journalist has been murdered in years, journalism is hardly a safe career choice. Earlier this month, Rath Rott Mony was extradited from Thailand and charged with “incitement to discriminate” for his role in an RT film about sex trafficking.

Add him to the list that includes Uon Chhin and Yeang Sothearin, James Ricketson, Aun Pheap and Zsombor Peter, the murky sales of The Phnom Penh Post and the near-fatal $6 million tax bill issued to The Cambodia Daily.

That nobody was murdered for a fourth consecutive year is good news, no doubt. Things could be a lot worse. They could be a lot better, too.


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