CAMBODIA: Save the Journalists!

ARACELI PALAFOX WRITES- The death of Cambodian journalist Taing Try has once again placed Cambodia in an unflattering spotlight.

Earlier this month, the 49-year-old journalist was killed while sitting in his car, after taking a bullet to the forehead. Try was found in a forest in the Kratie Province of Cambodia, where he and others were investigating and observing illegal logging.

Try, a member of the Khmer Journalists for Democracy Association, was working on exposing the illegal trading of timber in order to bring to light to one of the many social and political injustices occurring in Cambodia. Most of the time, illegal logging occurs under the protection of agencies and independent, powerful people who are almost always protected by the government. Try posed a threat to these agencies and, unfortunately, was also an easy target.

Recently, Cambodian authorities detained three suspects — including Mondolkiri police chief Ben Hieng, military police officer Khim Pheakdey, and Cambodia Royal Air Force member La Narong — all of whom have admitted to committing the murder of Taing Try.

National and international organizations like Reporters Without Borders, Khmer Journalists for Democracy Association, and the United Nations have condemned the murder and called on Cambodian law enforcement to conduct a thorough investigation of the murder.

Sources continue to report an increase in crime and threats against journalists who are merely doing their jobs. Cambodians fear that while authorities may have detained three suspects, those behind the crime are still on the loose.

Bob Dietz, head of the Asia program at the Committee to Protect Journalists, blames a lack of free press — a result of a media system owned and controlled by the government. As a solution, Dietz suggests that Cambodia allow and protect free press reporting, to not only stop illegal activities in Cambodia but to decrease the harassment of journalists as well.

Try is not the first to have died as a result of exposing Cambodia’s injustices. His murder actually marks the third environmental activist killed on the job. Try’s death reminds Cambodians of the fight and efforts to preserve Cambodia’s natural beauty and most importantly work toward achieving free press. As of 2014, Reporters Without Borders ranks Cambodia 144 out of 180 in the press freedom index.

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