BBG Welcomes the Release of Mam Sonando

In this March, 5, 2013 file photo, local radio station owner Mam Sonando is escorted in handcuffs by court security personnel as he enters an appeals court, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith, File)

Washington, DC — The Broadcasting Board of Governors welcomed the news that Cambodian activist and independent radio executive Mam Sonando was freed from prison today.

“This courageous advocate for a more open society was jailed on trumped-up charges, but at least he is now free,” said Michael Meehan, a member of the BBG’s governing board and chairman of the board of directors for Radio Free Asia (RFA). “Mam Sonando has championed the principle of speaking truth to power and paid an egregiously unfair price.  We encourage him to carry on his important mission with the support of our broadcasters.”

Sonando is director of Beehive Radio, a popular chain of independent FM stations based in Phnom Penh.  He was convicted last fall on charges of instigating insurrection and sentenced in October to 20 years in prison. A Cambodian appeals court on Thursday quashed that ruling, dropped most of the charges, reduced the sentence to time served and ordered his release.

Beehive Radio carries news and information programs from two BBG broadcasters, RFA and Voice of America.

“I am delighted he is released from a prison sentence, which he never deserved,” said BBG board member and RFA board vice chairman Victor Ashe, who had visited Sonando in prison for more than 30 minutes in January.  “The price of freedom of the media can be high.”

A dual citizen of Cambodia and France, Sonando has been the subject of intense international interest since his arrest in July. President Barack Obama and French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault were among those who had called for him to be freed, along with human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Global Witness.