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RFA, VOA agency fires back

The Broadcasting Board of Governors, an independent US agency that oversees government-sponsored stations Radio Free Asia and Voice of America, has hit back after the Cambodian government accused the broadcasters of being tools of the opposition.

In a statement released Thursday, BBG chair Jeffrey Shell rejected a report released by the Council of Ministers last week accusing RFA and VOA of broadcasting biased information favouring the Cambodia National Rescue Party and news that had been “fabricated and manipulated”.

“The report released by the Cambodian Council of Ministers on Jan. 28, 2014 with unsubstantiated claims of bias, is a troubling extension of a pattern of threats, attempts at intimidation, targeting of journalists and restrictions on independent media in Cambodia,” Shell said.

The statement also noted the government’s denial of a TV licence and expanded radio frequencies for Mam Sonando’s Beehive Radio, the violent dispersal of his supporters at a protest last week and attacks on journalists covering recent demonstrations.

“The Board is concerned over ongoing efforts to threaten and intimidate independent media,” the statement said.

In June last year, the BBG condemned a government directive banning foreign radio broadcasts – including RFA and VOA – for 31 days prior to the election. The ban, which was quickly rescinded, was also sharply criticised by the US State Department.

Both RFA and VOA have previously come under government fire for allegedly partisan broadcasting, but last week Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said they had become “worse” since the July election.

He added, however, that no efforts would be made to gag the broadcasters.

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