About 100 people gathered at the entrance of Phnom Penh’s Olympic Stadium at sunset Thursday to hold a candlelight vigil in memory of journalists slain in Cambodia and to highlight what rights workers said is a culture of impunity that has protected their killers from justice.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), 10 journalists have been killed in Cambodia since 1994. Licadho puts the number higher, at 11.
No one has ever been held to account for any of the murders.
“Saturday is International Day to End Impunity, and so in light of that, we wanted to highlight the cases of the journalists murdered since 1994, for which no one has been prosecuted,” said Naly Pilorge, director of rights group Licadho, which organized the vigil.
“A free and active media is a fundamental part of democracy,” Ms. Pilorge added. “Without that, you have a world without sound and sight.”
Those gathered wore red headbands calling for justice for the slain journalists and held lotus flowers during the ceremony, which was presided over by about 30 monks.
The site of the vigil was symbolic, Ms. Pilorge said, because it is where Moneaseka Khmer newspaper journalist Khem Sambo was gunned down, along with his son, in 2008. His reporting prior to his death was critical of Prime Minister Hun Sen and the ruling CPP.
Of the journalists assassinated, the first was Antarakum editor-in-chief Tou Chhom Mongkol, who died after being found unconscious with head injuries on Monivong Boulevard in Phnom Penh. The editor, whose biweekly publication covered corruption among other topics, died the next day.
The most recent case is that of journalist Hang Serei Odom, 42, who reported for Ratanakkiri province’s Virakchun Khmer Daily on local military police officials with links to the illegal logging trade.
His hacked up body was found stuffed in the trunk of his car in September 2012. In August, Ratanakkiri Provincial Court dropped murder charges that had been laid against former military police captain An Bunheng and his wife.
According to Moeun Chhean Nariddh, director of the Cambodian Center for Media Studies, “journalists continue to be harassed and intimidated for reporting on sensitive topics such as illegal logging and land-grabbing.”
“We do not have any cases where a person has been brought to justice for wrongdoing” against journalists, he added.