More than 60 Cambodian journalists on Monday issued a statement calling for the release of two jailed colleagues charged with espionage.
“The charges against the two former Radio Free Asia reporters are very severe and are creating a climate of fear for other Cambodian journalists,” the statement said. “We therefore respectfully ask the court to drop the charges.”
Former Radio Free Asia (RFA) reporters Uon Chhin and Yeang Sothearin were charged Saturday by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court for allegedly sending news reports to RFA’s headquarters in Washington D.C. RFA closed its nearly 20-year old bureau in Phnom Penh in September following a crackdown by Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government on independent media ahead of critical polls next year.
The station has since been reporting on Cambodia from outside the country and has repeatedly stated that it has had no relationship—contractual or otherwise—with the accused since the closure.
The former RFA reporters were charged with “providing information that is destructive to national defense to a foreign state,” according to a Reuters report.
If convicted, the journalists face up to 15 years imprisonment.
The statement calling for the reporters’ release cited Cambodia’s press law, which the signatories said guarantees their right to free expression.
“In a democracy, the press plays a significant role in disseminating the truth to citizens,” the statement said.