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Free Speech through the Radio

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Freedom of expression is an important element in a democratic country since it can help to criticise the government’s actions and what is wrong in society. Many talk shows have started on the radio to promote freedom of expression in Cambodia.

One radio programme, aired from 11:00 to 12:00 in the middle of the day on Saturday on Radio Sarika FM 106.5, is “Future’s Owner Talk Show”, which was created to improve freedom of expression and provide a space to highlight issues  in Cambodia, such as traffic, society, listeners’ experiences, politics and whatever that people are worrying about.

Neang Sovatha, a presenter and producer of the programme, said that at first she thought it would not be popular with listeners, but after running the programme for half a year more and more people are calling to talk and discuss problems they are concerned about.

She said she observes that people are braver in expressing their ideas criticising any problems happening in their community or the whole nation in her programme. “They are not afraid of expressing their opinions since they know about their right and freedom of expression in the programme,” she said.

Neang Sovathana said that the expression of ideas on her radio programme does not involve cursing. People raise issues such as prostitution, traffic, corruption, stress and politics to discuss and they seek a good solution with constructive criticism.

“Producing such a programme for people to express their concerns and ideas is part of social development, which is a great contribution to the progress of freedom of expression. If there are more programmes like this one on other radio and televisions slots, it will bring better involvement from citizens,” said she.

Neang Sovathana said her programme does not have any censoring before callers call in so they feel free to express what they want to say. However, there are not many women who dare to call in because their families do not want their daughters to share ideas related to politics since they afraid of going to jail.

She added that even though she feels happy to speak out, she still feels afraid of going to jail.

“I always think before I speak it out because I don’t want to become a cheerleader for any political parties and my audience and I have never blamed anyone for doing something wrong,” she said. “Until now my programme has run well and I haven’t had any threats yet.”

Radio ABC Cambodia, running for more than two years now, also provides a similar opportunity for listeners to join discussions in a talk show and talk freely about problems such as human rights, personal problems, social issues and traffic.  

A presenter for talk show on ABC Cambodia, A Plus, 24, said that after people listen to and call in to the programme, they can improve their knowledge and they can use this to help develop the country and improve society.

“ABC Cambodia has been a platform for listeners to talk and share opinions on any topics on air without pre censoring,” said A Plus. But if callers strongly criticise politicians or institutions without specific evidence, we will cut off the phone line immediately.

“I think that it is a little dangerous to allow callers to talk without censoring, but we also have rules to protect them as well as our radio [station].”

Unlike the two programmes above, Oh Man, a radio programme on Radio 102 FM, has its own censorship of questions and opinions of callers when they call in.

The 32-year-old producer of Oh Man, Khut Sokhoeun, said his programme does censor because it has topics for callers to express their opinions on and ask questions about and he does not want people to get off the topic of the programme.

“They can express their ideas on our topics related to good local governance. They can show their concerns about corruption, money spending in a local community, and they can request a commune council to spend money transparently as well as call for youth to join and observe the development in villages and communes,” he said.

Khut Sokhoeun said that Oh Man is a programme that helps promote the participation from youth in community development and the programme helps youth to express their voice on any issue. There is not any prevention of freedom of expression on their station.

“If callers want to talk about any big issue in society they can, because if they are not allowed, it is not promoting freedom of expression,” he said.

He added that it is very important to have freedom of expression via radio programmes because it can provide people the opportunity to share their opinions on issues.

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