A Phnom Penh court on Wednesday sentenced a fixer and translator to two years in jail for his role in making a documentary about child sexual exploitation in Cambodia.
Rath Rott Mony, 48, was convicted of “incitement to discriminate" and ordered to pay a fine of 35 million riel ($8,600) in compensation to two people appearing in the film, the government-aligned Fresh News reported.
The translator, who is also the president of the Cambodian Construction Workers Trade Union Federation, was hired by Russia Today in 2017 to work on the documentary “My Mother Sold Me,” which included accounts of poor children being sold into sex work.
The Cambodian government said the film was “fake news” and harmed the country’s reputation.
After the documentary was aired by RT in Oct. 2018, Rath Rott Mony fled to Thailand to seek asylum. In December he was arrested in Bangkok and deported back to Cambodia at the country’s request.
"Cambodia is trying to cover up the very serious poverty that compels urban families to encourage their daughters to engage in sex work to survive economically,” said Phil Robertson, Human Rights Watch's deputy Asia director, adding that the charges were an “affront to media freedom.”
“The push to imprison Mony is an example of Cambodia playing 'shoot the messenger' of a person who told the international community about an inconvenient reality the government wants to hide,” he added, calling for Rath Rott Mony’s immediate release.
The hardline political oppression of the opposition that began in 2017 ahead of last year’s July election was also extended to independent media in the country. The Cambodia Daily was forced to close after the government ordered it to pay a huge tax bill, following the shuttering of more than 30 radio stations in the country, which affected the US-funded Voice of America and Radio Free Asia.
Two Radio Free Asia reporters are currently facing what HRW calls “politically motivated” espionage charges.
In May, Rath Rott Mony’s wife met with UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Cambodia Rhona Smith to ask her to intervene in his case. Smith later released an end-of-mission statement asking the Cambodian government to “increase the space for a free press, including space for independent journalists to operate.”