Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Cambodia: Silencing the airwaves

Source: IFEX

(CCHR/IFEX) - This fact sheet highlights recent restrictions imposed on freedom of expression and information in Cambodia - manifested in a temporary ban on the operations of certain radio channels on the eve and day of the recent commune elections on 3 June 2012. Such freedoms are regularly threatened in Cambodia despite constitutional, domestic and international legal protections.

The Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC) consistently stifles the media by shutting down newspapers, threatening and sentencing journalists, and restricting access to television broadcasting. This ban shows that the RGC is willing to extend this approach to the airwaves. This fact sheet is written by the Cambodian Center for Human Rights ("CCHR") - a non-aligned, independent, non-governmental organization ("NGO") that works to promote and protect democracy and respect for civil and political rights throughout Cambodia - in collaboration with the Cambodian Center for Independent Media ("CCIM"), an NGO that promotes independent free media in Cambodia and airs programs by the Voice of Democracy ("VOD").

Silencing the airwaves

On 1 June 2012, the Ministry of Information contacted several radio stations in Cambodia to inform them that they were prohibited from broadcasting programs produced by VOD, Radio Free Asia ("RFA"), Voice of America ("VOA"), Radio France International and Radio Australia - programs which provide balanced and impartial information - on 2 and 3 June 2012.

This ban coincided with the commune elections, which were held on 3 June 2012. Following the elections, an official from the Ministry of Information defended the ban, claiming that it was introduced in order to maintain a "quiet atmosphere" during the elections and that it was implemented legally. It is not clear what this legal basis is. Interestingly, an official for the National Election Committee (the "NEC") claimed that the NEC were not aware of the ban. RFA, VOA and VOD all voiced their concerns regarding the ban and deplored the consequences of having had their broadcasts banned over those two critical days. A representative of VOA Khmer estimated that the ban resulted in the exclusion of hundreds of thousands of listeners, while RFA released a statement calling the decision to prohibit broadcasts "arbitrary" and "troubling." The Broadcasting Board of Governors, which oversees RFA and VOA, condemned the decision, called the ban "contrary to the principles of free and fair elections."

Download the factsheet:
Cambodia_CCHR_Silencing_Airwaves.pdf (433 KB)