The closure of Radio Free Asia’s Phnom Penh office has prompted outcry from civil society groups, who warn access to independent information and freedom of expression is becoming increasingly stifled in the country.
Adhoc investigator Seoung Sen Karona said the government’s crackdown on independent media showed how it was restricting the public’s right to access information.
“The closure of RFA’s office in Phnom Penh means people will lose access to a resource providing accurate, independent information and communicating the voice of citizens to the government,” he said.
He however failed to elaborate as what constituted an independent media or how RFA was classified as an independent media.
“We are living in modern times, but the government seems to want to make it harder for people to access information.”
San Chey, executive director of the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability, said RFA had played a vital role in disseminating news to improve development in the country.
“News outlets that speak the truth provide independent and comprehensive information to help reform the government and play an important role for democratic society,” he said.
Mr Chey added that such media organisations give local people a voice and inform the government of their views.
RFA on Tuesday closed its Phnom Penh office after nearly 20 years, saying it had been persecuted by the government under the guise of fiscal and administrative errors.
It said that Prime Minister Hun Sen had no intention to allow free media to operate in Cambodia before the 2018 election.
However, CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said RFA operated for years without legal registration or paying taxes.
“It is clear that RFA violated Cambodian laws and was an insult to the independence and national sovereignty of Cambodia,” he said. “They shamelessly violated our laws but accuse the government of putting pressure on them.”
Information Ministry spokesman Ouk Kimseng said RFA’s accusation that the government was silencing media freedom amounted to slander.
“This is a trap to cause public misunderstanding,” he said.
An anonymous source said RFA staff would work as normal this month, but without any office. Those who stay on with RFA will renegotiate their terms and conditions.
A total of 13 radio stations in 10 provinces and the capital were rebroadcasting the RFA Khmer service, but the owners of the stations were recently ordered by the Ministry of Information to stop doing so.