Japanese Photojournalist Acquitted of Porn Charge in S Reap

Siem Reap Provincial Court yesterday acquitted Go Takayama, the Japanese photojournalist charged with producing pornography, along with the Cambodian couple he was photographing prior to the trio’s Nov 23 arrest in Siem Reap City.

A photojournalist with a publishing history in both his native Japan and the US, Mr Takayama was attending the sixth annual Angkor Photo Workshop when provincial anti-human trafficking police detained him. Officers confiscated Mr Takayama’s camera along with a memory card containing 78 images, including pictures of the Cambodia couple embracing in their undergarments that the provincial anti-human trafficking police chief claimed displayed “very sexual acts.”

Mr Takayama was held in provincial jail for the last two weeks as pending trial, with letters of support from free speech groups, former employers and friends poured into Cambodia. After his release yesterday, Mr Takayama voiced pure relief.

“For now, I just want to say I’m happy to be out and with my friends,” said Mr Takayama by telephone. “I’m just really overwhelmed, so I don’t think I should say anything else.”

Mr Takayama declined to more specifically detail his experience in Siem Reap, but said he planned to leave Cambodia shortly.

Judge Sok Leang said yesterday that after inspecting the confiscated pictures, he found that Mr Takayama had not violated the anti-human trafficking law statute outlawing the production of pornography, which it defines as material “depicting a genital or…which excites or stimulates sexual desires.”

“I checked the photo and they are not porn, but they are just not in line with Khmer morality,” said Mr Leang.

Mr Takayama and the Cambodian couple’s lawyer Sourng Sophea echoed this sentiment, saying the photos were “not in keeping with our culture,” but were not pornography. Mr Sophea asked that the Cambodian couple remain unnamed in order to protect their reputation.

But provincial anti-human trafficking police chief Sun Bunthorng was unapologetic yesterday about his decision to arrest Mr Takayama after receiving a tip from a local resident that the photojournalist was taking pictures of a woman and a man in their underwear.

“I did not arrest the wrong person. I don’t feel embarrassed,” said Mr Bunthorng. “I arrested him with the legal procedure and proof.”

Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said yesterday that he had sent a letter to government official in Siem Reap advocating for Mr Takayama’s release after receiving letters from Mr Takayama’s former employers in Japan and the US vouching for his character and perusing the photojournalists online portfolio.

Journalism rights group joined Mr Takayama’s former employers and teachers in demanding his release. Prior to yesterday’s verdict, the Committee to Protect Journalists, an international free speech advocacy organization, released a statement in which its Asia program coordinator was quoted as saying, “It seems clear that he is a responsible photographer caught up in a misunderstanding, and should not be treated as a criminal.”

Jessica Lim, the coordinator of the Angkor Photo Workshop, said that yesterday’s decision brought relief following a tense few weeks.

“We were holding our breath up until the last moment,” said Ms Lim.

Chris Mackler, a photojournalist and classmate of Mr Takayama’s at Ohio University who used Facebook.com to create an international “Free Go” letter writing campaign targeting the Cambodian Embassy in Washington and the Japanese Embassy in Cambodia, also voiced support

“I’m ecstatic to hear of the ruling in Go’s favor,” said Mr Mackler by e-mail shortly after the verdict was announced. “I’m thankful he was found not guilty and will be able to return to work as a visual storyteller.”

Related Stories

Latest News

The Weekly DispatchA weekly newsletter from The Cambodia Daily delivering news, analysis and opinion to your inbox. Published every Friday at 11:30am. Sign up today.