Sarada Taing was worried sick.
A U.S. citizen who was born in Cambodia, he was running from Washington an online, independent news broadcast for audiences in Cambodia and around the world. On his weekday Khmer-language video talk show, which draws between 50,000 and 80,000 viewers, he airs investigative reports on corruption, money laundering, land grabs, deforestation, human rights abuses and human trafficking — challenging the authoritarian government.
On June 19, just weeks before a Cambodian election, Sarada got two audio messages on Facebook Messenger from a pro-government social media celebrity in Cambodia. In the first message, the man told Sarada he “would chop my head off if I entered Cambodia.” In the second, the man asserted that he had friends outside Cambodia and “they also don’t like you.” The threat was repeated in a Facebook Live conversation the celebrity hosted from Cambodia on June 22, during which the man said he would not hesitate to kill Sarada.