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Plug pulled on critics’ airtime

Pech Sotheary / Khmer Times Share:
The Information Ministry has closed about 10 radio stations, including ones that were renting airtime to VOA, RFA and the CNRP. Wiki Commons CC BY-SA

The Ministry of Information has closed down multiple radio stations that have been renting airtime to the opposition CNRP party and to two radio news organisations that have been under fire from the government.

The government has been battling Radio Free Asia and Voice of America over claims that they have been operating in the country without proper licences and without paying taxes.

According to a decision issued on Monday, the Information Ministry has closed about 10 radio stations, including ones that were renting airtime to VOA, RFA and the CNRP, as well as the Voice of Democracy news organisation.

Ouk Kimseng, an undersecretary of state at the ministry, said the decision to shut the stations, which broadcast in the capital as well as a number of provinces, was due to them breaking contracts made with the ministry to update it on whom they rented airtime to.

“In the past, those radio stations have discussed exactly with the ministry about any programs and everything else that is not their own, by reporting to the ministry,” he said.

“But now they have always violated that agreement, doing whatever they want, and they did not report to the ministry as stated in the contract.”

Yi Chorvoan, director of the Mohanakor Radio Station that has been closed, said the suspension of her broadcasts was due to her not telling the ministry who was renting airtime.

But Ms Chorvoan denied any wrongdoing, claiming she always followed the rules laid out by the ministry.

“We have repeatedly notified the ministry,” she said.

“They called us to inform us of the closure immediately. We could not do anything, we were in trouble. We have followed the ministry’s instruction at all points so far.”

According to Ms Chorvoan, Mohanokor Radio FM 93.5 has in the past sold airtime to the CNRP for two hours per day, as well as to RFA and VOA.

CNRP lawmaker Yim Sovann reacted to the move by posting a message on his Facebook page. He said the party had bought airtime at Mohanokor Radio since 2012.

“From now on, the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), Radio Free Asia and Voice of America will no longer broadcast their programs on this radio,” he said.

“I do not know how the 2018 national election can now take place freely and fairly.”

Pa Nguon Teang, executive director of the Cambodian Centre for Independent Media and for Voice of Democracy, said the ministry had also shut down stations that he rented airtime from.

“There are two radio stations that were closed that broadcast VOD’s programs, such as FM 106.5 and FM 106.7, but three other radio stations in the provinces that carry VOD broadcasts have yet to receive a closure notice,” he said.

Mr Nguon Teang said the closures were an attack on independent media and a loss for society, which relied upon a free press to gain awareness.

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