PHNOM PENH, June 29 Cambodia has banned local
radio stations from broadcasting content from foreign media in
the run-up to a general election next month and also told them
to stop carrying reports on foreigners playing any role in the
Prime Minister Hun Sen, one of the world's longest-serving
leaders, has total control of local television and most radio
stations and his Cambodian People's Party (CPP) is expected to
win the July 28 election.
Radio Free Asia (RFA), one of two U.S. funded stations which
offer programmes in Khmer through local radio and is free from
government influence, said the media censorship would hinder
In a statement late on Friday, the Ministry of Information
said all radio stations must be neutral in their coverage before
the election and not carry reports on foreigners playing any
role in the election. It was not clear if the directive was
aimed at any individuals or monitoring groups.
The statement said stations must also suspend broadcasting
Khmer-language programmes by foreign media.
Radio Free Asia spokesman John A. Estrella called the ban
"the most sweeping and stunning frontal assault on media freedom
in Cambodia in recent memory" and "a blatant strategy to silence
the types of disparate and varied voices that characterise an
open and free society".
"Unfettered access to diverse, accurate, election
information provides the foundation for fair and free elections,
and Prime Minister Hun Sen's decision represents a major
regression in the march towards democracy and freedom in
Cambodia," he said in a statement.
Two local stations, Women's Media Center FM 102 and Beehive
FM 105, stopped re-broadcasting RFA and VOA reports on Friday.
Last year, the Cambodian government threatened legal action
against RFA and VOA, accusing them of favouring opposition
parties and promoting U.S. foreign policy.
Earlier this month a panel dominated by the CPP expelled 29
members of parliament because three parties had merged to form a
new party to contest the election. It ruled that made them
ineligible to continue to sit for the old parties.
The new formation, the Cambodia National Rescue Party
(CNRP), will be the main challenger to the CPP.
It has already accused the National Election Committee of
bias, listing irregularities including names missing from
electoral rolls, the presence of "ghost names" and the
disruption of CNRP public events. It has threatened to pull out
of the election if things get worse.
(Reporting by Prak Chan Thul; Editing by Alan Raybould and