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Cambodia 13 October 2005

Radio station manager jailed on charge of defaming prime minister

Reporters Without Borders today condemned the arrest of Mam Sonando, the director of independent radio Abeil FM, on a charge of defaming Prime Minister Hun Sen in a programme criticising his decision to cede two islands to Vietnam.

He is being held in Prey Star, one of Cambodia’s biggest prisons, where he could be kept in custody for up to six months. He faces a possible one-year prison sentence.

He was arrested at his home on 10 October after broadcasting an interview in which Sean Pengse, the head of the Paris-based Cambodia Borders Committee, criticised the decision to cede the islands of Phu Quoc and Krachak to Vietnam

Sonando was taken to the interior ministry and then to the Phnom Penh courthouse where a judge questioned him for three hours about a complaint accusing him of “inciting unrest, insults and defamation.” The court finally decided to charge him only with defamation.

The authorities claim that the prime minister was accused in the interview of being a traitor for relinquishing the two islands. The prime minister said he would prosecute all those “who dare to say I cut off territory to give to someone else.” He also claimed that Sonando’s arrest was not a press freedom violation since the radio station had not been closed down.

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