This week the Cambodian government has taken steps to restrict independent press, including denying expanded licensing for an independent radio station, cracking down on protestors supporting the independent media, and issuing a report accusing Radio Free Asia and Voice of America of manipulating the news.
On behalf of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, BBG Chair Jeffrey Shell issued the following statement:
We call on the Cambodian government to respect the role of independent media and we categorically reject the accusations that the Voice of America and Radio Free Asia fabricate or manipulate the news. The report released by the Cambodian Council of Ministers on Jan. 28, 2014 with unsubstantiated claims of bias, is a troubling extension of a pattern of threats, attempts at intimidation, targeting of journalists and restrictions on independent media in Cambodia.
The most recent violent crackdown on demonstrators, including innocent bystanders such as reporters covering the events, is a distressing escalation of tensions in Cambodia in the fallout of the national elections in July.
The Board is concerned over ongoing efforts to threaten and intimidate independent media.
We look forward to the removal of remaining press restrictions and the Cambodian people having full access to the accurate information they deserve.
The release of the report accusing VOA and RFA of bias followed a protest on Monday, Jan. 27 when hundreds of demonstrators were met with force by police in Phnom Penh as they marched in support of independent media outlet, Beehive Radio. The station, which carries VOA and RFA programming, had been denied a television license as well as an FM signal boost. At least seven people were injured in the crackdown, which involved the use of smoke bombs and electric batons.
The protests are the latest in ongoing demonstrations following the July national elections in Cambodia, the results of which have been challenged on the grounds of irregularities. In recent weeks the ruling party has banned demonstrations and has increased the scale of its response to protestors.
In the beginning of January, there was a protest of Cambodian garment workers in which four demonstrators were killed.
Below is an RFA video report on the protest.
Last year in the run-up to the election, the Board expressed concern about the Cambodian government restrictions on foreign media.