Phnom Penh – Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International on Thursday called for the release of a jailed opposition newspaper editor, but prison authorities said there was no indication his release would come soon.
Dam Sith (pictured), 39, is editor of the Moneaksekar Kampuchea newspaper and a candidate for the opposition Sam Rainsy Party in national elections scheduled for next month.
He is charged with defamation, ‘insult’ and disinformation over remarks his newspaper published by party leader Sam Rainsy regarding Foreign Minister Hor Namhong.
‘Dam Sith’s arrest demonstrates how the criminal justice system is used and abused to silence government critics,’ Brittis Edman, researcher for London-based Amnesty International, said in a press release.
‘His arrest sends a message of fear to journalists and other media workers in the lead-up to national elections next month,’ Edman added.
His detention on civil charges is unprecedented, and the court said it was because of fears he would interfere with witnesses – a reason that has not satisfied rights and journalist groups.
‘There’s little room for critical or opposition journalists in Cambodia, and those who express dissent risk harassment, intimidation and, at times, imprisonment,’ Sara Colm, senior researcher at New York-based Human Rights Watch, said in the same press release.
Although the Information Ministry has sent an appeal for Sith’s release to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, there has been silence since his arrest Sunday, ministry officials said.
And Mong Kim Heng, the director of Prey Sar prison, where Sith is being held, said Thursday that he had received no hints of Sith’s release.
‘We have heard nothing at all,’ he said.