Media Chiefs Freed on Bail

Mam Sonando and En Chan Sivatha, the two journalists arrested and charged with inciting violence in connection with the Jan 29 anti-Thai riots, were released on bail Tuesday.

The authorities arrested Bee­hive Radio Director Mam Sonan­do and Rasmei Angkor (Light of Angkor) Editor in Chief En Chan Sivatha on Jan 30 and Jan 31 re­spectively and sent them to Prey Sar prison, where they were detained prior to their release.

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court has charged Mam Sonan­do with broadcasting false information and inciting the Jan 29 riots after allegedly broadcasting reports from callers that the Cambodian Embassy in Bangkok had been destroyed.

En Chan Sivatha was charged with printing the first story alleging that Thai actress Suvanant Kongying claimed Angkor Wat belonged to Thailand.

“The arrest [and charges] against me are wrong—I am in­nocent,” Mam Sonando said at his Phhnom Penh home on Tuesday. “This is a big mistake.”

Mam Sonando maintained that he broadcast reports from callers claiming that Thais at the border were forcing Cambodians to drink salt water at about 8:40 pm. Rioters in Phnom Penh started destroying and burning the Thai Embassy more than two hours prior to those broadcasts, he said.

He said that Beehive Radio, which has been taken over by the government and is currently broadcasting Khmer music, will resume airing its regularly scheduled format soon.

En Chan Sivatha also ex­pressed happiness that he was released on Tuesday. “I am healthy, I am OK,” he said by telephone. “To­day is the freedom day for my life.”

No court dates have been set for their trials.

International human rights groups Human Rights Watch Asia and Amnesty International criticized the charges and detention of both journalists on Tues­day, calling the accusations a blow against freedoms of speech.

“Attempts to silence free speech and opinion do not bode well for free and fair elections later this year,” the groups said in a joint statement.


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