Cambodian Journalists Alliance Association

RFA journalists’ court verdict scheduled for October 3

Uon Chhin and Yeang Sothearin, former journalists from the RFA, who are accused of espionage, arrive at the Municipal Court of Phnom Penh for their trial proceedings.

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court has rescheduled its verdict into the espionage case against two former Radio Free Asia journalists Oun Chhin and Yeang Sothearin to October 3, court spokesman Y Rin said on Monday.

Chhin and Sothearin were arrested in November 2017 and charged with “illegally providing information to a foreign state” under Article 445 of the Criminal Code. They have since had production of pornography added to the charges against them and face a prison term of seven to 15 years.

Two hearings were held in July and August in their trial, and at that time Presiding Judge Im Vannak said the court would announce its verdict on August 30. But the judge was busy with a meeting at the Justice Ministry on the day and the verdict was delayed.

Sothearin, one of the two defendants, said he had yet to receive the information officially from the court.

“I think this delay from the court seems a little long,” he said, adding that he hoped there would be no further delay.

“Even though it is late, we hope that the verdict on October 3 will be true,” he said. “I will participate in the verdict announcement, and I hope that everything will be cleared on October 3 and we hope that we will receive our complete freedom.”

More than 20 Cambodian journalists have signed an open letter appealing to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court to speed up the verdict announcement for the two RFA journalists.

According to the open letter, obtained on Sunday from social media, 23 journalists said they were concerned by the case and asked that the court acquit the two journalists.

“The charges against the two former RFA journalists have spread fear among other journalists and it has caused a decline in press freedom in Cambodia,” the letter said.

“The delay affects their freedom,” it said, adding that in a democracy, the media has an important role to provide truthful information to the people.