Licadho: Newspapers Refusing to Run Ads

Two leading Khmer-language newspapers are refusing to publish advertisements demanding justice for the two men imprisoned over the killing of union leader Chea Vichea, Licadho President Kek Galabru said on Feb 2.

Rasmei Kampuchea stopped printing the adverts on Thursday, four days into a weeklong agreement to run them, while Koh San­tepheap has refused to print the adverts since they were launched on Jan 28, Kek Galabru said.

The adverts, which show pictures of Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun, are funded by the Cam­bodian Human Rights Action Com­mittee—a coalition of 23 rights organizations.

A female staffer from Rasmei Kampuchea has told Licadho that an unidentified court official advised the paper that the adverts could indicate a bias against the judiciary, Kek Galabru said.

“We contacted Koh Santepheap to post the ad, but they were not co­operative and ignored us,” she claimed.

Kek Galabru said she was uncertain why the papers have dropped the adverts, but added, “maybe they fear the government.”

Phnom Penh Municipal Court sentenced the two men to 20 years in prison each in August 2005, over the January 2004 slaying of Cam­bodia’s most prominent union leader. Many observers believe both men are innocent.

Pen Samithy, editor of Rasmei Kampuchea, said a legal adviser to the paper suggested dropping the adverts, and that there had been no pressure from the courts or the government.

“When our independent om­budsman examined the legality of the issue, we decided to stop running [the adverts],” he said.

“This type of ad is more social than commercial,” he said. “We should leave this to the court and civil society to pursue it.”

But Pen Samithy added that in principle, he supports the campaign for the pair’s release.

Thong Uy Pang, publisher of Koh Santepheap, said nobody had informed him about the adverts and that he would be happy to print them. “We are an independent newspaper. We welcome any type of ad if people pay us,” he said.

Information Minister Khieu Kanharith could not be contacted.

Asked whether the government had pressured the papers not to run the adverts, CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap said rights groups should not interfere in the case and let court officials do their job.

“It is the right of Licadho to criticize, but the court is obligated to do its work,” he said.

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