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Journalists charged with theft, arrested briefly after taking pictures of illegal farm

(SEAPA/IFEX) - On 17 November 2007, three journalists from the "Voice of Peace" newspaper in Kampong Thom province were arrested for alleged theft after they took pictures of an illegal farm rearing snakehead fish in the district of Kampong Svay, Kampong Thom province, bordering Tonle Sap (Great Lake).

Thorng Channa, 45, Lim Thau, 35, and Pen Rithy, 32, were out on bail the same day, thanks to the intervention of a senior Information Ministry official, according to the Cambodian Association for the Protection of Journalists (CAPJ), a SEAPA partner.

The owner of the farm, an unidentified man from Boribo district in Kampong Chnang province, accused the journalists of stealing US$1,050 from him after the caretaker of his farm saw them there. Kampong Svay police arrested the journalists and brought them to the provincial court, which initially charged them with robbery.

According to CAPJ, illegal fishing and farming practices are prevalent around Tonle Sap and farm owners usually bribe the powerful for "protection" from the law.

Condemning the arrest, CAPJ demanded in a 19 November statement that the charge of thievery against the three be dropped and a full investigation into the case be conducted so that the real perpetrator might be arrested.

Sharing CAPJ's demands, SEAPA notes that the charge against the three journalists may have been motivated by an intention to intimidate them from exposing the illegal farm they were investigating.

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