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VOA reps discuss reopening with Information Minister

Pech Sotheary / Khmer Times Share:
US embassy Charge d’affaires Michael Newbill meets with Information Minister Khieu Kanharith yesterday. KT/Khem Sovannara

The Ministry of Information yesterday agreed to reopen the office of Voice of America, but the broadcasting company must complete all legal registration documents.

VOA was among a handful of media outlets shuttered in 2017 as the government implemented a tax and registration push. The government at the time said that VOA was scrutinised over its broadcasting licenses and tax records.

Yesterday, a meeting to discuss the reopening was held between Information Minister Khieu Kanharith, US embassy Charge d’affaires Michael Newbill and US Agency for Global Media deputy director Matthew Walsh.

After the meeting, Information Ministry spokesman Meas Sophorn said that Global Media representatives requested that VOA Khmer be reopened.

Mr Sophorn said Mr Kanharith agreed in principle to reopen the VOA office in Cambodia. However, Mr Kanharith said VOA will need to complete all required documents.

“Representative of Global Media thanked the ministry as well as the minister for helping coordinate,” Mr Sophorn said. “Global Media claimed that they will submit the [documents] soon.”

He noted that the reopening of other shuttered media outlets was not discussed at the meeting.

Mr Walsh could not be reached for comment. VOA staffers in Cambodia declined to comment.

US embassy spokesman Arend Zwartjes confirmed that the meeting took place. However, he noted that the reopening of another shuttered media outlet was discussed.

“I can confirm that representatives from the United States Agency for Global Media met with the Minister of Information today to agree on a roadmap for registering Voice of America and Radio Free Asia in Cambodia,” Mr Zwartjes said. “Our hope is that both VOA and RFA will soon be allowed to register and once again broadcast in Cambodia.”

Pen Bona, president of the Club of Cambodian Journalists, yesterday said that the fact that the meeting took place means that Cambodia does not pressure media outlets critical of the government.

“If the Information Ministry agreed in principle to allow VOA to officially reopen its office, it clearly demonstrates that Cambodia did not put pressure on that radio station,” Mr Bona said. “The issues in the past were due to legal problems.”

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