The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation has denied and expressed regret over accusations made by the Cambodia Daily that it was shuttered due to its criticism of the government.
The statement came after Daily owner Deborah Krisher-Steele told Radio Free Asia (RFA) via email on Thursday that the newspaper will not re-launch in Cambodia due to persecution and corruption.
She said the Daily will continue to spread news without fear and without bias, and free of charge, on the internet.
In a statement on Monday, the ministry vehemently rejected the Daily’s accusations that the government shut its operations and closed its bank account due to its critical stance towards it.
It said that the accusation was false and that the fact remains that many media outlets are operating freely in the Kingdom.
“This accusation is false and not based on fact at all. In fact, many Khmer and English language media outlets have carried out their work in accordance with the law and continue to operate and enjoy the freedom of expression without hindrance."
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation regrets the politically-motivated accusation made by the Cambodia Daily and wishes to reiterate that in the event that the Cambodia Daily meets its tax obligation, the newspaper can resume its operation,” the ministry statement said.
It said that according to records at the General Department of Taxation (GDT) the Daily has operated its business since 2007 without having fulfilled its tax obligation of $6.3 million.
The ministry said the newspaper’s owner had not cooperated with the GDT and had postponed meetings on numerous occasions.
The ministry further said that the only reason the Daily ceased publication was due to its failure to comply with its tax obligations in accordance with the Law on Taxation.
Regarding RFA, the ministry said the broadcaster had not obtained legal permission for its operation.
The GDT had therefore requested RFA to clarify its tax compliance.
Having failed to do so under the law, the ministry said, RFA closed its office, dismissed its employees and began operating in secret with an unprofessional agenda aimed at tarnishing the reputation of the Royal Government of Cambodia by lobbying the international community to put pressure on the government.
Last Wednesday, the US government urged Cambodia to restore independent media outlets and drop charges against Kem Sokha and other political prisoners and end the ban on the opposition.
RFA closed its office in September last year and the Daily stopped publishing that same month.