Isabelle Roughol – The J junkie

The tribulations of a young journalist and writer looking for work

Archive for the ‘Freedom of the press’ Category

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.


Written by Isabelle Roughol

Tuesday, 15 July, 2008 at 02:55

24 hours against censorship on the Internet — Join the movement!

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Demo Egypt

Today, I attended demonstrations in Eritrea and Egypt. I might go to China and Cuba later. That’s me up there, on Hosni Mubarak Square in Cairo earlier today. Obviously, I haven’t been flying all over the world between classes. I am participating in Reporters Without Borders’ 24 hours against censorship on the Internet. The freedom of information group is organizing cyber-demonstrations all day in support of journalists, bloggers and cyber-dissidents who have been jailed, harassed or prosecuted for what they’ve posted on the Web. The demonstrations are held on virtual replicas of famous gathering spots in Burma, China, North Korea, Cuba, Egypt, Eritrea, Tunisia, Turkmenistan and Vietnam, the countries most famous for their crackdown of online speech. It’s just a bit of support from the bloggers who have it easy to those who don’t but still blog. Join the movement.

Written by Isabelle Roughol

Wednesday, 12 March, 2008 at 17:42

The debate over journalists’ right to vote is a non-question

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For some obscure reason, the question of whether journalists should vote — which I thought had long been settled — resurfaced on the J-blogosphere this week, probably sparked by this piece on Politico and this WP blog post that got tons of comments.

You might start thinking that becoming a journalist is like entering the priesthood. It’s hard enough having to discipline ourselves in public statements; now some would have us become apathetic, blank slates even in the dark of the polling booth. What’s next? Give up your habeas corpus rights so you can look objective reporting on Guantanamo? Not own a pet so you can report on the Humane Society? Not have a kid so you can report on the PTA?

It’s a travesty to argue that just because journalists wouldn’t vote, they would be objective about the election. I am not a U.S. citizen and cannot vote in the upcoming presidential election; believe me when I say, I very much have an opinion about it. Stronger, in fact, than in many French elections where I could — and did — vote. I just won’t make public statements about candidates, donate, be involved in campaigns, etc… And I am confident that I can set this opinion aside if asked to report about the election. It’s that simple. Let me vote (where eligible.)

Written by Isabelle Roughol

Saturday, 16 February, 2008 at 01:13

Free journalists in Niger!

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Goodness, it’s 3 a.m. Explanations will come tomorrow. In fact, this speaks for itself.

Written by Isabelle Roughol

Wednesday, 16 January, 2008 at 02:08

Happy New Year…

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… let’s hope for a less bloody one in 2008. My apologies, dear junkies. (That’s my leitmotiv lately.) I’m packing boxes these days and looking for a job. I am now heading to my grandfather’s for a few days offline. I will simply leave you with this sad map from Reporters Without Borders and a resolution not to leave this page without updates for 10 days ever again. Happy new year to all.
Carte RSF 2007 resized

Written by Isabelle Roughol

Saturday, 5 January, 2008 at 12:37

French journalist Dasquié arrested, interrogated by secret service agents; how France in 40 hours negated its press freedom legacy

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Finals, jetlag and procrastination, I haven’t written in two weeks almost. I have returned to the homeland, and I’d like to share with you news of the latest infringement on press freedom in my dear country (that’s France, fyi). 

Guillaume Dasquié, journalist who specializes in intelligence reporting and editor of, was arrested at home by DST agents (French equivalent of the FBI). My apologies for the delay; this happened Dec. 5. The following details are as explained by Mr. Dasquié on “Revu et corrigé,” a wonderful media watch programme on France 5, a channel of French public television.

DST agents went through the Dasquiés’ home for 5 hours, looking for documents that were leaked to him and that he used in writing his stories. In particular, they were looking for documents related to an article he wrote for Le Monde in April 2007 about what the French intelligence services knew before 9-11 about Al-Qa’ida and Bin Laden. He said he offered up all his documents because his job is about being transparent and he’s got nothing to hide. He was then taken to the DST headquarters for 40 hours for interrogation. 

In France, article 109 of the penal code gives journalists the right to protect their sources, i.e. France has a shield law. It’s actually not strong enough compared to European Union law, and changes are being discussed. When his interrogators asked for his sources, Mr. Dasquié claimed the protection of article 109. He should have then been released, but the assistant DA decided to keep him 24 more hours. “We need a name,” the assistant DA said. Under intense pressure, including threats of keeping him in jail through slow procedures until he got a trial and veiled threats on his children, Mr. Dasquié revealed the name of one intermediary source, he said, but kept his main source protected.

Mr. Dasquié explained that he found out he was targeted because his article, based on documents that did not come from an organized leak, made it look to U.S. intelligence agencies as though the French had given up some of their secrets. So in order to maintain good relations between the two nations, an honest journalist was made to feel that he was no longer able to perform his job. I like 24, but for entertainment only, not as a way to run a democracy.

Mr. Dasquié’s interview on “Revu et corrigé” is fascinating. If you speak French, see it below. If not, here’s just the final sentence translated for you.

I have worked in Algeria, Sudan, Yemen, and every time I left those countries thinking, “My God, the journalists who do my job there, how brave, what a pair of balls!” … I thought, “me, I do it in France because… I’ve got kids, but I live in a democracy. They can mess with me, pressure me, put me through tax audits and other petty things, but they can’t go too far.” That all fell apart. So of course, I gave up a name. And I told myself, I’m done doing this job like this, because proof is, I can’t do it anymore.   

Read more from Reporters without Borders.

  Revu et corrigé du 08 décembre 2007 (3) - France5Revu et corrigé du 08 décembre 2007 (3) – France5

Revu et corrigé du 08 décembre 2007 (3) – France5

Written by Isabelle Roughol

Thursday, 20 December, 2007 at 22:12


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No photo available
I hate it when I have to do this, but I had to add one more image to my gallery of journalists and media workers killed for their profession. Shehab Mohammed al-Hitti, of Baghdad News, was abducted Oct. 27 in Al Jami’a (east Baghdad) on his way to work. His body was found in northern Baghdad later that day. Once again, this slain journalist was much too young — just 27. Once again, there are no photos of our colleague online, so all we’ll have is this black silhouette.
This brings to 81 the number of journalists killed this year, 46 in Iraq alone. For the sake of comparison, there were just 25 journalists killed in all of the world in 2002, the year before the Iraq war began. *sigh*

Written by Isabelle Roughol

Saturday, 10 November, 2007 at 02:29