Isabelle Roughol – The J junkie

The tribulations of a young journalist and writer looking for work

A Cambodian journalist is killed

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A Cambodian journalist and his son were killed over the weekend in Phnom Penh. Out of professional reserve, I don’t typically write about things my newspaper is covering. But I write about this because a/ I usually write about slain journalists, b/ I am a journalist in Cambodia so I’m obviously concerned, and c/ this one seems to have gone largely unnoticed outside of Cambodia.

Khim Sambor (also spelled Khim Sam Bo) and his son, Khat Sarinpheata, 21, were killed Friday evening in a drive-by shooting in downtown Phnom Penh. They were on their motorbike, and two men on another motorbike fired 5 shots at them, according to reporting by colleagues at the Daily. Khim Sambor died at the scene; and his son later at the hospital.

The investigation has not yet determined whether the murders were linked to Khim Sambor’s journalistic activities. It could have been a mere coincidence; shootings happen in Phnom Penh, increasingly these days. But the victims were not robbed or involved in a fender-bender (yes, those have prompted several shootings lately). The family said they did not know of any personal disputes that could have prompted the killings.

Khim Sambor was a journalist for the newspaper Moneaksekar Khmer, affiliated with the Sam Rainsy Party, the main opposition party here. (The press is highly politicized here, and most newspapers are linked to one party or another.) Khim Sambor had written articles about corruption in the government, and his newspaper has been in disputes with the ruling party. Most recently, Dam Sith, the editor of Moneaksekar and an SRP candidate in the July 27 general election, was charged with defamation and disinformation for printing comments by Sam Rainsy himself linking a government minister to the Khmer Rouge. Dam Sith was put in pretrial detention for a week. The charges have since been dropped.

Local and international NGOs and the opposition have linked the murders to the election season and Khim Sambor’s activism. The government has, too, condemned the murders, as well as foreign governments, and the US Embassy has offered the help of the FBI for the investigation. Elections are in two weeks; the campaign has been a bit tense, though not to the extent of past political turmoil in Cambodia. There have been a couple of killings and other non-lethal attacks of people both from the ruling party and the opposition, as well as threats; no murder has yet directly been linked to the victims’ political activities.

Being a journalist in Cambodia can be tough and frustrating (where isn’t journalism tough and frustrating?), but it’s typically not dangerous — certainly not fatal. This is a worrisome development. So please keep Khim Sambor in mind.

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Written by Isabelle Roughol

Tuesday, 15 July, 2008 at 02:55

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