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Independent radio show ordered to halt

The Ministry of Information called yesterday for the independent Beehive Radio station to cease broadcasting the Khmer Post programme or face legal action.

In a letter dated yesterday, Information Ministry Secretary of State Uk Prantha told Beehive Radio Director Mam Sonando that he had violated government policy by not seeking permission before broadcasting the Khmer Post radio show.

The show, which is not affiliated with The Phnom Penh Post, began last week and discusses politics and current affairs, frequently criticising the government.

“The Ministry of Information warns you for the last time and requires you to immediately stop renting broadcast hours on Beehive Radio to Khmer Post Radio,” the letter states.

“In case you do not enforce on this advice or abuse this order and advice again, the Ministry of Information will withdraw the licence and cease broadcasting of this radio station and it will face legal action.”

The letter referenced a prakas, or edict, issued by the Information Ministry last year calling for radio stations to ask for government permission before renting out broadcast hours. Sath Putheary, director of the
broadcasting department at Information Ministry, said it was “the principle of the Ministry of Information that the renting of broadcast hours must be done with permission”.

Mam Sonando could not be reached for comment yesterday, though Meach Sovannara, director of Khmer Post Radio, said he was concerned that the move could be politically motivated.

“If they do not allow us [to broadcast], it is the intention of the Information Ministry and the government to close down freedom of expression,” he said.

Pa Nguon Teang, director of the Cambodian Centre for Independent Media, said the Information Ministry’s directive was “illegal” and that there was “no law” to justify it.

Mam Sonando was arrested in 2005 and charged with defamation, disinformation and incitement in connection with a Beehive Radio broadcast in which a guest criticised the border demarcation process with Vietnam.

The arrest came amid a crackdown on political speech that also saw Pa Nguon Teang and others taken into custody, though they were released in January 2006 and the complaints against them were eventually dropped.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY SAM RITH

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