Police arrested two former reporters with US-based Radio Free Asia on Tuesday over their installation of broadcasting equipment to allegedly report back to the agency’s office without permission from the government.
Former RFA video editor Uon Chhin and Yeang Sothearin, bureau chief of the Khmer service in Phnom Penh, were arrested at the Marady Hotel, where they had rented a room to set up broadcasting instruments illegally, according to deputy governor of Meanchey district Dy Rath Khemrun.
On September 12, RFA shut its Phnom Penh office after nearly 20 years of operation, citing a crackdown on free press by the government as the reason.
The Information Ministry had earlier shut down dozens of radio stations broadcasting news from RFA and slapped the Cambodia Daily newspaper with a $6 million back tax bill, leading to its closure as well.
Teng Sino, district police chief, said local officers cooperated with the National Police internal security bureau to raid the hotel room and make the arrests.
General Kirth Chantharith, spokesman for National Police, said the reporters were being questioned.
“Police have detained them because they installed equipment for broadcasting news and activity without permission from the Information Ministry,” Mr Chantharith said.
Police seized four desktop computers, one laptop, one sound mixer, speakers, a microphone, and six computer monitors during the raid.
Mr Chhin has denied that he was setting up a system to broadcast news back to the US office of RFA to be disseminated in Cambodia. “Police accused us of working for RFA,” Mr Chhin said.
“I was not working for them. There was nothing wrong with what I was doing.
“My purpose was to produce music.”
RFA added that it would continue its work via shortwave radio, YouTube and Facebook.
Spokesman for the Ministry of Information Ouk Kimseng said RFA closed its office of its own accord, without pressure from the government.
“When they install equipment for broadcasting news it is illegal, so they have to be held responsible according to the law,” he said.