[Cambodia] SEAPA statement: Media closures muzzle critical voices

Statement of the SEAPA members regarding the ongoing crackdown against independent media in Cambodia 

SEAPA expresses deep concern regarding the Cambodian authorities’ shutdown of multiple independent radio broadcasts, including Mohanokor Radio, Voice of Democracy (VOD), Voice of America (VOA) and Radio Free Asia (RFA).

Beginning on August 22, radio partners informed SEAPA member, the Cambodian Center for Independent Media (CCIM) that broadcasts of its Voice of Democracy program were to be stopped. Broadcasts of VOD in Phnom Penh on FM 106.5 MHz and FM 106.7 MHz were stopped on August 22 and 23, respectively, and by three other provincial stations FM 91.25 MHz in Siem Reap, FM 91.25 MHz in Battambang, and FM 101 MHz in Banteay Meanchey on Thursday. The broadcasting of programs from VOA and RFA in all provinces outside Phnom Penh was also stopped.

Our members in Cambodia documented at least 31 broadcasts relayed from Phnom Penh and from 19 provinces that were shut down upon orders by the Ministry of Information, on the basis of an alleged failure to adequately report on the sales of airtime. The Cambodia services of RFA and VOA have also been threatened with closure in relation to taxation issues.

The independent bilingual newspaper, The Cambodia Daily, announced its shut down today, 4 September 2017, because of an alleged USD$6.3 million tax bill demanded by the General Department of Taxation Cambodia (GDTC). The Cambodia Daily, an independent newspaper renowned for critical investigative reporting, has requested a formal audit and for due process to be followed; thus far, its request has been denied.

We view these closures as part of a broader campaign to muzzle critical voices and to clamp down on freedom of expression ahead of the July 2018 national election. Media freedom is a fundamental component of any democracy, and it must be preserved in order for next year’s election to be free and fair.

We urge the Cambodian government to immediately cease the harassment of independent media outlets, to ensure that all independent radio broadcasts can return to air, and to reverse its decision to close the Cambodia Daily, in order to ensure that the Cambodia public can enjoy their right to access information and a diverse media environment. 

We reiterate our support to our member CCIM in their efforts to promote independent news reporting in Cambodia and resume regular broadcasting with their partner radio stations.

Endorsed by the following members of the Southeast Asian Press Alliance:

Aliansi Jurnalis Independen (AJI), Indonesia

Asosiasaun Jornalista Timor Lorosa’e (Timor Leste Journalist Association, AJTL)

Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR)

Cambodian Center for independent Media (CCIM)

Centre for Independent Journalism(CIJ), Malaysia

Cemter for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR), Philippines

Forum Jurnalist Perempuan (FJP), Indonesia

Myanmar Journalist Network (MJN)

National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP)

Thai Journalists Association (TJA)