Interior Minister Sar Kheng yesterday said the government is committed to strengthening democracy, noting that it has ensured press freedom in the Kingdom.
Mr Kheng’s comments came after Reporters Without Borders last week issued a report stating that Prime Minister Hun Sen launched a war against the media in which dozens of outlets were shuttered, including the Cambodia Daily, an English-language newspaper.
It said that the last bastion of the independent press, the Phnom Penh Post, was bought by a Malaysian businessman with ties to the Cambodian government in May 2018.
The pro-government editorial policies that he subsequently imposed were such that many of its journalists resigned, the report added.
“As a result of this clean sweep, Cambodians now only have access to news provided by major media groups directly linked to Hun Sen, such as the online news agency Fresh News, which pumps out pro-government propaganda,” the report said.
Reporters Without Borders also ranked Cambodia 143 out of 180 countries in its 2019 Press Freedom Index.
Mr Kheng yesterday said democracy in the Kingdom is moving forward and perceived setbacks was an opinion, adding that press freedom is alive and well in the Kingdom.
“In my opinion, democracy is moving forward because everything has to change or develop – sometimes it is stable – so Cambodian democracy is moving forward,” he said, noting that foreign media outlets, such as Voice of America, Radio Free Asia and Radio China are allowed to operate in the country.
“If we want to shut them down, we can do so by making an announcement on Facebook, but we do not wish that,” Mr Kheng added. “We encourage them to disseminate good news for the people. Why do they say Cambodia is not democratic?”
Mr Kheng noted that democracy in Cambodia still exists due to the presence of about 40 political parties registered with his ministry. He also noted that there are about 5,000 NGOs and associations operating in the Kingdom.
“There is not a single party, there are many political parties. Whether they are strong or weak is their business – they must have a political platform and support from villagers,” Mr Kheng said.
CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said there is unrestricted press freedom in the Kingdom.
“Broadcast without censorship means that the government has not restricted the freedom of broadcasting,” Mr Eysan said, adding that Cambodia has allowed many media outlets to open.
Pen Bona, president of the Club of Cambodian Journalists, said the report by Reporters Without Borders does not reflect Cambodia’s press freedom.
“Press freedom faces no problems and has been carried out peacefully,” Mr Bona said. “The media situation in the Kingdom is better than in other countries.”