March 29, 2018 / 7:29 AM / in a month

Cambodian court accuses journalists of pornography as well as espionage: lawyer

PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - A Cambodian court has charged two journalists with producing pornography in addition to espionage charges they already face for filing news reports to a U.S.-funded radio station, their lawyer said on Thursday.

Washington-based Radio Free Asia (RFA) was shut in Cambodia last year amid a crackdown on the opposition and media by the government of Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has accused the United States of trying to end his rule of more than 33 years.

A Cambodian rights group described the new charges against former RFA journalists Uon Chhin and Yeang Sothearin as another attack on the free press.

Their lawyer, Keo Vanny, said the court had informed him of the pornography charges on Wednesday. They had committed no such crime, he said. The charge carries a prison sentence of up to one year in prison.

Pro-government media have published pixelated images of people in sexual positions and said that they are related to the case, but the accused are not identifiable in any of the images.

Court spokesman Ly Sophanna and Radio Free Asia did not respond to requests for comment.

Rights groups have condemned the detention of the men, who were arrested in November and charged with espionage for filing news reports to RFA. They deny the accusation and say they were just doing their job.

Chak Sopheap, executive director at the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, said the pornography charges appeared aimed at destroying the pair’s reputations.

“This entire prosecution should be seen for what it is: a blatant attempt to limit press freedom, and to silence and intimidate all independent journalists in Cambodia who dare to speak and reveal the truth,” she said.

In an unrelated case, a Cambodian court last week suspended 10 months of a one-year jail term for a British man found guilty of producing pornography in connection with a pool party in the town of Siem Reap, home to the ruins of Angkor Wat.

Authorities said partygoers danced provocatively and posted pictures of themselves on social media.

Editing by Nick Macfie

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