The Broadcasting Board of Governors has condemned a directive issued by the Cambodian government that forbids the broadcasting of all foreign programming for 31 days prior to the July 28 election. The directive affects all FM radio stations broadcasting Radio Free Asia and Voice of America programming.
“I am extremely troubled by the Cambodian government’s actions today,” said Victor Ashe, a member of the BBG’s governing board and the vice chairman of the board overseeing RFA and who served as the U.S. Ambassador to Poland from 2004-2009. “By denying its citizens access to unbiased news and information in this critical time it is undermining its own legitimacy and blatantly repudiating the very democracy it claims to espouse. When I visited Cambodia in May, I met with leaders in the media and civil society. I know first-hand how much they rely on the reporting of RFA and VOA.”
Radio Free Asia reports that at least 10 FM stations in Cambodia have dropped programming as a result, and e-mails from listeners are already starting to pour in. VOA’s Khmer Service says the government’s decision to pull VOA radio programs from FM stations has sparked immediate complaints on Facebook and other social media sites. Both broadcasters have issued statements condemning the ban.
Radio Free Asia will continue to provide programming through its websites and social media platforms as well as on shortwave radio. VOA will continue providing news and information broadcasts on direct-to-home satellite, web streaming and shortwave and AM radio broadcasts from outside Cambodia. Because of the Cambodian government’s action, both broadcasters are now considering adding shortwave frequencies.
In a statement today, the U.S. State Department urged the Royal Government of Cambodia to reconsider the decision. “This directive is a serious infringement on freedom of the press and freedom of expression, and starkly contradicts the spirit of a healthy democratic process,” said State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell.