Upcoming elections see clampdown on independent voices in Cambodia

Cambodia Daily staff launch a campaign to save the outlet. Credit: Supplied

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins the South East Asia Journalist Unions (SEAJU) in strongly criticizing the government-led attack on press freedom in Cambodia in recent weeks. The IFJ and SEAJU call on the Cambodian Government to end its attack on the media and guarantee press freedom.

On August 5, 2017 a letter addressed to the Cambodia Daily appeared on the Facebook page of the government-affiliated Fresh News, claiming that the Daily owed the government USD 6.3 million; including USD 2.4 million in unpaid taxes; almost USD 1 million in ‘additional taxes’ and another USD 3 million in interest.  The letter gave the Daily until September 4 to accept or dispute the bill, with a lack of response taken as acceptance.

On August 25, Voice of Democracy (VOD) which is run by the Cambodian Centre for Independent Media (CCIM), was taken off the airwaves after its partner radio stations had stopped broadcasting its shows without reason. VOD broadcasts in Phnom Penh were blocked on August 22 and 23, while broadcasts in Siem Reap, Battambang and Banteay Meanchey provinces were blocked on August 24. In the following days, a further 19 radio stations were cut off, with the government claiming that they had violated  their contracts with the government by overselling programming to outlets like the Voice of Democracy (VOD) as well as U.S.-funded Voice of America (VOA) and Radio Free Asia (RFA).

Opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) spokesperson Yim Sovann told the Cambodia Daily that “the shutdowns mean that next year’s elections will not be free or fair and the truth in society cannot be revealed.” He added that the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) enjoyed a near-monopoly on TV and now radio. “It’s not free when my competitor can do everything. “

Critics of the latest moves by the government have said that it is part of the government’s plan to win the next elections. Cambodia will hold its general elections in July 2018. 

CCIM said: “CCIM believes that the action of the government to shut down independent media in Cambodia is politically motivated in preparation for the general elections scheduled for July next year.” 

SEAJU said: “Cambodia's deplorable clampdown comes amid a growing trend of government suppression of independent media throughout Southeast Asia. SEAJU demands that the Cambodian government immediately desist from its attempts to shut down media outfits and respect freedom of the press and of expression. We issue a similar demand to all governments of Southeast Asia”.

The IFJ said: “The government-led crackdown on press freedom and independence in Cambodia is a serious cause for concern. The government is targeting the country’s independent media houses, intimidating and harassing them, thus creating a culture of fear. The media plays a vital role in democracy, and Cambodia is no exception. In the lead up to next year’s elections, the media will be a key player in keeping the people of Cambodia aware and informed as they head to the polls. The IFJ calls on the government to respect the important role of the media in promoting democracy.”

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0946 

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries

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