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Cambodia 20 October 2003

Call for independent enquiry into murder of radio journalist

Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières) today deplored the murder of a journalist from the royalist Cambodian opposition radio station Ta Prum and called on the government to set up an immediate independent enquiry to find and punish those responsible.

The station’s deputy editor, Chuor Chetharith, was shot dead by two men on a motor-cycle in front of the station in Phnom Penh on 18 October as he was getting out of his car. He was hit in the neck. Prime minister Hun Sen had warned the station four days earlier to "monitor its programmes" better after they had extensively criticised him.

"It is vital to end the impunity enjoyed by those who kill journalists if the government is to regain its credibility," said Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard in a letter to prime minister Hun Sen.

King Norodom Sihanouk condemned the murder and at once suspended negotiations he was chairing to form a new coalition government between Hun Sen’s majority Cambodian People’s Party (PPC, in power for nearly 20 years) and the Democratic Alliance of the royalist FUNCINPEC, which had links to the radio station and of which Chou Chetharith was a member, and the Sam Rainsy Party. The PCC failed to win an absolute majority in parliamentary elections on 27 July.

The king said on his Internet website that the killing was "politically motivated" and complained that "in 99% of cases, those responsible are not found and go unpunished." Six journalists were killed between 1994 and 1997 and none of the crimes have been solved.

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