Ban on Radio Broadcasts Lifted Amid US Pressure

July 1st, 2013 , The Cambodia Daily

The Ministry of Information on Saturday lifted a ban on the broadcast of all Khmer-language foreign radio programs by FM stations during the month leading up to the July 28 national election amid swift and harsh rebuke from the U.S. and the broadcasters themselves.

The ministry signed off on the ban Tuesday and announced it Friday, claiming that the blackout on any and all foreign programming was needed to assure “neutral” coverage of the election, and warned it would take legal action against anyone who broke it.

On Saturday, the ministry attributed the swift about face on the ban to a wave of dissent that had emerged in the aftermath of the ban’s announcement.

“According to the requests asking the ministry to [allow the] rebroadcast of all Khmer-language programs via local FM radio stations, the ministry has decided to allow all FM stations renting airtime for foreign programs to continue to broadcast as normal from now on,” it said in a brief, unsigned statement. …

[Voice of Democracy Director Pa Nguon Teang] said the need for independent coverage of the election was especially crucial in light of the serious concerns being raised about this year’s voter list. Election monitoring groups who have audited the government’s list say up to 1 million voters could be disenfranchised due to widespread errors, possibly rendering this national election the least fair in 20 years. …

Hul Reaksmey and Zsombor Peter
http://www.cambodiadaily.com/elections/ban-on-radio-broadcasts-lifted-amid-us%E2%80%88pressure-32700/

Foreign Radio Broadcasts Banned Ahead of Election

June 29th, 2013 , The Cambodia Daily

The Ministry of Information has banned the broadcast of all Khmer-language programs by foreign radio stations for the entire 31 days of the pre-election campaign period and on election day, July 28, warning that legal action will ensue if stations fail to comply.

The ban, announced on Friday, immediately silenced Khmer-language radio broadcasts from Voice of America, Radio Free Asia (RFA) and Radio France Interna­tional, which are relayed in Cambodia through such stations as Beehive Radio F.M. 105 and the Women’s Media Center (WMC) F.M. 102. …

The ban, which was signed on Tuesday by Secretary of State and “acting Information Minister” Ouk Prathna, but only made public on Friday, states: “All F.M. radio stations must suspend relaying and airing all Khmer-language programs of foreign radios during the 31 days of the election campaign and election day.” …

Khy Sovuthy and Lauren Crothers
http://www.cambodiadaily.com/elections/foreign-radio-broadcasts-banned-ahead-of-election-32648/

NEC Says Statement on Bloggers Not an Attack on Free Speech

May 27th, 2013 , The Cambodia Daily

Despite fears that a warning to users of social media and Internet blogs will dampen free speech, the head of National Election Committee (NEC) has insisted the intention was not to limit expression ahead of July’s national election.

The NEC last week issued a statement requesting that bloggers and users of various social media “do not provide wrong information about the election (especially the date of the election), create fear, confusion or a loss of confidence in the secrecy of the vote.”

NEC Secretary-General Tep Nytha said yesterday that the statement was not a threat to people speaking openly, but that the committee would act against errant users. …

He [Mr. Tep Nytha] cited Article 124 of the law, which states that voters or candidates can be removed from the voter list, have their candidacy for the election cancelled and be fined up to 25 million reil, for disrupting the electoral process. …

“They have a right to talk about politics or criticise the NEC, we just don’t want them to share the wrong information, or create fear and confusion that will affect the election.” …

Moeun Tola, who heads the labor program at the Community Legal Education Center and regularly posts about politics on Facebook, said the message could make Cambodians feel less free to share information about the elections online. …

Chhorn Chansy and Simon Lewis
http://www.cambodiadaily.com/news/nec-says-statement-on-bloggers-not-attack-on-free-speech-26791/

Gag Order on Lawyers Sparked by Comments in Mfone Case

February 13th, 2013 , The Cambodia Daily

A controversial order instructing lawyers to consult the Cam­bodian Bar Association before making public statements was triggered by comments made by an attorney involved in the high-profile legal battle involving mo­bile operator Mfone, a spokes­man confirmed on Monday.

Kuoy Thunna—who is representing Chinese telecommunications firm Huawei in its battle to recover more than $65 million in unpaid bills from the bankrupt Mfone—was told in a letter dated January 31—also posted on the Bar Association’s website—to cease speaking to the media. …

During both injunctions against Mfone, Mr. Thunna spoke to re­port­ers about the details of the cas­es. And in comments published the day before the Bar As­socia­tion’s letter, Mr. Thunna told a repor­ter that the transfer of subscribers was a breach of the in­junction against Mfone. …

Aun Pheap and Simon Lewis
http://www.cambodiadaily.com/news/gag-order-on-lawyers-sparked-by-comments-in-mfone-case-10015/

PM defends Sonando verdict

October 11th, 2012 , The Phnom Penh Post

Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday lashed out at critics of the Mam Sonando verdict, saying outsiders shouldn’t be seeking the release of a prisoner.

Speaking to hundreds of villagers at a land title ceremony held in Chhuok district of Kampot province, Hun Sen defended the guilty verdict handed down to the radio station owner.

“The verdict is against [him] because of inciting people to oppose the authorities, and [he] has to be cleared,” said Hun Sen. …

While NGOs and even foreign governments have been quick to label the case a quashing of freedom of speech, the premier took pains to set the record straight, stressing that Sonando’s verdict has nothing to do with his station.  …

Vong Sokheng, P. 3
http://www.phnompenhpost.com/index.php/2012101159243/National-news/pm-defends-sonando-verdict.html

BBC Report Says Media Stifled, Journalists Targeted in Cambodia

September 14th, 2012 , The Cambodia Daily

In a week that has seen one journalist murdered and another threatened for their investigations into corruption and forest crimes, a timely new study into the state of Cambodia’s media has found that the country’s press is being stifled.

Eleven journalists have now been killed in the country since 1993. …

“Criticism of the government is an increasingly risky venture,” the report by BBC Media Action, the BBC’s international development charity, states. …

The authors of the study also noted that the country’s Press Law “limits…freedoms with clauses that allow for the suspension of a newspaper if it harms national security or political stability or if it humiliates politicians.” …

The Khmer press is politically affiliated, the report said, noting that English-language newspapers are given relatively free rein, likely because they reach limited audiences and are not considered a threat. …

Kate Bartlett, P. 18

Mam Sonando’s ‘Secession’ Trial Focuses on Absent Suspect

September 13th, 2012 , The Cambodia Daily

The trial of independent radio owner Mam Sonando continued for a second day at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday, though most of the testimony centered around the fellow alleged secession leader Bun Ratha, who remains at large.

Along with eight others, Mr. Sonando and Mr. Ratha stand accused in an attempt to break away from government control, charges they both deny. …

But the most of the day’s testimony focused on the absent Mr. Ratha, who has emerged as the central figure in the alleged secessionist plot, according to the narrative presented by the prosecution. …

Khuon Narim and Zsombor Peter, P. 15

Slain Journalist’s Mobile Phone Yields Clues

September 13th, 2012 , The Cambodia Daily

Police investigating the murder of a journalist whose battered body was discovered in Ratanakkiri province on Tuesday have unearthed key clues to who may have carried out the killing, an official said yesterday.

Hang Serei Odom, 42-who had written exposes on the involvement of powerful people in forest crimes-is the first journalist to have been murdered in Cambodia in four years. …

Ratanakkiri provincial police chief Ray Rai said the investigation had already yielded leads from the reporter’s mobile phone and belongings, which were left in the car. He said police had identified Metphone mobile phone number that had been used to call the victim at about the time he left his home for the last time on Sunday evening, telling his wife he was going to meet someone named “Mr. Heng.” …

Kuch Naren and Simon Lewis, P. 1

Radio Station Owner Denies Secession Charges

September 12th, 2012 , The Cambodia Daily

Independent radio station owner Mam Sonando declared his innocence yesterday at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court where his trial began over his alleged involvement in a secessionist movement in Kratie province. …

Commenting on organization he founded, the Association of Democrats, Mr. Sonando told the court it was dedicated to teaching “people to understand freedom.”

Joining Mr. Sonando in the dock yesterday were eight other men also charged for their alleged roles in the secession. …

[The men] gave largely similar testimony, though a few said they have never met Mr. Sonando. They also said they had turned themselves in after Prime Minister Hun Sen offered to have the charges dropped against anyone who confessed to the government’s secessionist allegations.

Khuon Narim and Zsombor Peter, P. 1

Journalist Murdered in Ratanakkiri

September 12th, 2012 , The Cambodia Daily

A Cambodian journalist, who reported on forest crimes in Ratanakkiri province for a little-known newspaper, was found murdered in the trunk of his car yesterday, police said.

Hang Serei Odom, 42, a journalist at the Khmer-language Virakchun Khmer Daily, had been missing since Sunday, when he left his home in Banlung City, telling his family he would only be gone for a short time, said Song Bunthanorm, provincial serious crimes police chief. …

“The body was chopped twice with an ax- on the back of the head and the forehead,” he said, adding that police suspect at least two people were involved in the killing. …

In his final story for the newspaper on September 6, Hang Serei Odom alleged that the son of the provincial Military Police commander was involved in the illegal timber trade. …

Hai Sina and Kuch Naren, P. 1

Land Rights Worry UN

August 28th, 2012 , The Phnom Penh Post

A mission to examine political rights in Cambodia has been increasingly overshadowed by the Kingdom’s dire land rights situation, the 2012 report from Cambodia’s UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights, published yesterday, shows.

Cambodia’s rapporteur, Surya Subedi, conducted two fact-finding missions to Cambodia in drafting his 2012 report, and prepared an addendum of findings on the impact of economic land concessions to be published next month. …

The “human cost of such concessions has been high”, he continues, explaining the addendum will provide an analysis and recommendations to “counter the negative impact of those concessions on the lives of Cambodians, especially the rural poor, indigenous peoples and those living on the margins of society”. …

As well as in the context of land evictions, Subedi examined the role of state institutions in the context of elections and political rights.

The problem, he writes, lies in the inadequate implementation of laws and the “genuine or perceived” lack of independence. …

Bridget Di Certo and Chhay Channyda, P. 1
http://www.phnompenhpost.com/index.php/2012082858327/National-news/human-cost-of-land-concessions-high-un-special-rapporteur.html

Asean NGO Coalition Claims Members’ Rights Violated

April 2nd, 2012 , The Cambodia Daily

Members of the Asean People’s Forum, a coalition of NGOs that convened in Phnom Penh last week, declared yesterday that their rights had been violated after four workshops on sensitive issues were canceled by the venue where they met.

In a statement representing more than 1,200 delegates from Asean countries, the group said that Asean governments had violated their right to freedom of speech and assembly by refusing to allow four workshops focusing on land rights, mass evictions, environmental issues and Burma, and by prohibiting a delegation from Laos from attending the forum. … Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan yesterday again denied government responsibility for shutting down the workshops…

“If they think the government is their enemy, then they shouldn’t live here,” Mr. Siphan said. …

Olesia Plokhii, P. 17