Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Former Courier & Press photographer released from Cambodian prison

Go Takayama

Donald Winslow, News Photographer magazine

Evansville Courier & Press

Posted December 7, 2010
via CAAI
Photojournalist Go Takayama, 28, a former Courier & Press intern who had been held in a Cambodian jail since Nov. 23 on charges that he was producing pornographic pictures has been released after a provincial court acquitted him of all charges.

The development comes after a high-ranking Cambodian government minister spoke out on the photographer’s behalf.

Cambodian Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith, a former newspaper editor who has been jailed in the past, told News Photographer magazine he was convinced of Takayama’s innocence and that he was sending a formal letter to the court requesting his release.

Takayama worked for the Courier & Press in 2008.

Provincial Prosecutor Ty Soveinthal told The Phnom Penh Post this week that Kanharith had intervened on Takayama’s behalf, and the photographer and the married couple who were arrested along with Takayama would be released.

At a hearing this morning, Judge Sok Leng said that based on the evidence and statements, Takayama and the married couple he was photographing, who also were arrested, were not guilty of pornography charges. The judge also said Takayama would receive his camera, memory card, and the photographs back from police.

“We have found his mistake was very minor,” Soveinthal told the newspaper, “and he was supported by His Excellency Khieu Kanharith.” Cambodia’s Minister of Information told the Post he had received many messages from Cambodian journalists trained in the U.S. who affirmed Takayama’s innocence. “I also checked his blog and understood the nature of his art,” Kanharith said.

“I have concluded my investigation of the Japanese photographer, and I think his punishment should be very minor and he should not be jailed in Cambodia,” Soveinthal told the newspaper.

“The court gave us justice today,” Takayama’s lawyer, Sourng Sophea, said after the photographer’s release.

Kanharith’s interest in Takayama’s case most likely had a significant impact on the court’s view of the photographer’s actions. The high-ranking Cambodian Minister had been imprisoned himself in 1990 when he was suspected of “dissident activities,” but in 1991 Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen asked Kanharith to serve as his adviser and in 1992 the former journalist was promoted to Minister of Information.

Takayama had been jailed in Siem Reap after taking pictures for a story he was working while participating in the Angkor Photo Workshops.

After photographing a married couple inside a home Nov. 23, Takayama was stopped on the street by plainclothes police officers, Angkor Photo Workshop organizer Jessica Lim told News Photographer magazine.

The police confiscated his camera along with 78 photographs from his memory card, which were admitted as evidence in an accusation charging Takayama with producing pornographic content. He had been under arrest and in prison since that night.

Lim said the photographs were not pornographic. “They depict a married couple hugging and holding each other. Although there was never any nudity, the man had his shirt off and halfway through the shoot the woman took her blouse off as well. The man had on shorts and the woman had on trousers throughout the entire shoot and there was no explicit sexual activity.”


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