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Journalist's house set on fire again following threat over reports on illegal logging

(SEAPA/IFEX) - A reporter's house was set on fire for a second time by unknown persons on 17 August 2007, just a week after the first arson attack occurred.

On 10 August, a blaze had partly destroyed the house of Phon Phat, a reporter for the "Chbas Ka" ("Accurate") newspaper in the western Pursat province.

A day before the fire, an anonymous person called Phon Phat on his telephone, saying, "A 'gift' will be offered for your report on illegal logging activities in Pursat."

Fortunately, Phon Phat and his family escaped unhurt on both occasions.

SEAPA joins its partner, the Cambodian Association for the Protection of Journalists (CAPJ), in strongly condemning the latest criminal act against the journalist, which is an obvious attempt at intimidation, if not a direct threat to his and his family's lives.

"CAPJ considers this criminal act a threat to press freedom that cannot be tolerated," the organisation said in an 18 August media statement, urging the authorities to seriously investigate the case and bring the culprits to justice.

The Cambodian media has been threatened against reporting on illegal logging since the 5 June government ban on the United Kingdom-based Global Witness report that alleged top civil servants had plundered the country's forests (see IFEX alerts of 20, 19, 15 and 6 June 2007).

Journalists who had defied the official ban and reported the environmental watchdog's allegations have faced severe consequences for performing their duty to the public. The management of the bilingual daily "Cambodge Soir" closed the newspaper two days after firing its news editor, Soren Seelow, on 10 June, while Radio Free Asia reporter Lem Pichpisey had to seek refuge in neighbouring Thailand on 17 June after receiving an anonymous death threat by telephone.

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