The Leaderboard: Mam Sonando

Who is he?

Mam Sonando, 72, is the editor and owner of Beehive Radio, an independent news outlet in Cambodia. He is also the president of the Association of Democrats, a nongovernmental organization that promotes human rights and democracy.

Mam Sonando had been imprisoned since October 2012, when a Phnom Penh municipal court convicted him of anti-state crimes and sentenced him to 20 years in prison. The charges related to Beehive’s coverage of a military crackdown on land eviction protests in Kratie Province, during which a 14-year-old girl was shot and killed.

Prime Minister Hun Sen publicly called for Mam Sonando’s arrest on June 26, 2012 after Beehive reported that an organization submitted a communication to the International Criminal Court accusing the Cambodian government of crimes against humanity for the crackdown.

Mam Sonando. Source: Heng Reaksmey, VOA Khmer, used under U.S. government work.

Why is he in the news?

A Phnom Penh appeals court released Mam Sonando on March 15. The court dropped most of the serious charges against him the previous day and reduced his sentence to a suspended five years.

What can we expect from him?

Mam Sonando pledged in an interview with Voice of America after his release to continue broadcasting news in Cambodia.

His release is a welcome development for press freedom in Cambodia. However, it came only after significant domestic and international pressure. Numerous international leaders called attention to his case, including President Barack Obama, who raised the issue with Hun Sen during a November 2012 meeting in Phnom Penh.

Cambodia has become an increasingly difficult space for independent media personnel in recent years. The government frequently levies harsh penalties on journalists who report on corruption or criticize state leaders. In September 2012, reporter Hang Serei Odom was brutally murdered after reporting on the involvement of a military commander’s son in timber smuggling.


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