Information Minister Khieu Kanharith has said that US-backed radio outlets Radio Free Asia and Voice of America do not need to pay tax, but do need to obtain media licences to operate.
Mr Kanharith’s statement comes after the Ministry of Finance requested the Ministry of Information take legal action against RFA and VOA for allegedly failing to register for tax and operating without licences.
However, Mr Kanharith said that as the outlets didn’t have their own frequency and rented airtime from radio stations, the radio stations need to pay tax, not them.
“They have never taxed radio like that. They have charged tax only on stations that use their own frequency,” the minister said when asked what legal action would be taken on RFA and VOA.
“We should tax only the radio station who has sold them airtime,” he said. “But if they have a bureau here, they need to ask our permission to operate, if not, it is illegal.”
Mr Kanharith added that the National Television of Kumpuchea would face serious tax charges if it were charged for the same reasons, as it has been broadcasting in many countries.
“TVK is watched in nearly 130 counties. If they were taxed $100 per month, it would be serious,” he said. “TVK in the US is broadcast on many channels, and it is those channels who are responsible to pay tax.”
“But any station that has rented airtime, without permission, has done so illegally because in the contract we have said that to rent airtime you must obtain permission,” he said.
Beehive Radio Station manager Mam Sonando said his station has complied with the law and paid tax while renting airtime to Radio Free Asia.
“I have paid 10 percent tax every month on all revenue from my radio station,” Mr Sonando said. “So I will continue to rent airtime to them.”
Political analyst Meas Ny said the government has targeted media outlets which broadcast “sensitive issues of government.”
“We have seen that the government has issued tax payments to media outlets and NGOs who dare to criticise the government,” Mr Ny said.
A biography on Mr Kanharith was launched yesterday by Cambodian journalist and author Chhay Sophal. “Life in the Battlefield” covers Mr Kanharith’s family, studies and work to become information minister.