Media restriction in Cambodia draws global concern
Geneva/Washington: The recent closure of a leading independent media outlet, Voice of Democracy (VOD), available in Cambodia’s official language Khmer and English, by the government has drawn global concern.
Expressing its concerns over the Cambodian Government’s abrupt decision to revoke Voice of Democracy’s media license, the United States stated that the decision was particularly troubling “due to the chilling impact it will have on freedom of expression and on access to information ahead of the national elections in July”.
“A free and independent press plays a critical role in functioning democracies, providing the public and decision-makers with facts and holding governments to account. For more than 20 years, VOD has provided objective, fact-based reporting on issues that serve the interests of the Cambodian people. We urge Cambodian authorities to reverse this decision,” the US State Department spokesperson Ned Price told journalists in Washington.
Voice of Democracy (VOD), the online outlet along with a radio station, became the latest victim of media restriction policies adopted by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, following a news item on February 9, 2023, involving the PM’s eldest son that seemingly hurt the dignity of the government in Phnom Penh. The government cancelled the license of VOD, even though the management tendered an apology for the concerned news article. Earlier, two prominent daily newspapers namely The Cambodian Daily and The Phnom Penh Post faced wrath from the government.
Starting its venture in 2003, the VOD attracted readers with a number of investigative and in-depth reports on corruption, mismanagement and misuse of power by individuals in high places.
Press Emblem Campaign (PEC), a global media safety and rights body, expressed its serious concern over the closure and condemned all kinds of media restrictions in the southeast Asian country ahead of the scheduled national elections in July 2023.
PEC’s south-east Asia representative Nava Thakuria informed that the VOD published an item alleging that Hun Manet, deputy commander of the country’s armed forces, signed a deal relating to Cambodia’s aid to earthquake-devastated Türkiye, on behalf of his father. Hun Sen denied the allegation and stated that it damaged the government’s reputation. Even when the VOD management asserted that it quoted a government official, he stated that it was unacceptable.
Remaining in power for 38 years, Hun Sen tips to politically empower his son in the ruling Cambodian People’s Party.
“Cambodian authorities should respect the freedom of the press and it becomes essential as the country of 17 million people is expecting a free and fair general election within six months. If the government does not show its due respect to the media, how can it ensure an honest electoral exercise,” said Blaise Lempen, president of PEC, adding that PM Hun Sen must allow all media outlets to function without intervention.
– global bihari bureau