Radio Free Asia (RFA) shot back at the Cambodian government today in the wake of its unusual private lecture, saying officials were trying to intimidate the station and dictate its content, while Voice of America (VOA) stressed that they would change nothing about their broadcasts.
The words came a day after officials from the Council of Ministers and the ministries of Justice, Foreign Affairs and Information held a closed-door meeting with representatives from the two US-government funded stations.
While the government has insisted the meeting was friendly and only touched upon professionalism in general, sources knowledgeable about it have said the government was highly critical of their reporting of sensitive stories.
In its first official comments on the matter, both RFA and VOA said they will not adjust their reporting.
"The meeting was nothing more than a blatant attempt to discourage objective reporting on the government. RFA will continue to report on any and all stories of public interest and concern in an accurate and objective fashion," the station said in a statement.
"The Cambodian government clearly does not understand the principles of a free press or the important role of independent media if it thinks it can intimidate RFA and dictate what we can or cannot report on. We stand by our stories and our reporters."
Chief of VOA Khmer Chris Decherd defended the station's lack of bias and said it had no intention to back down from reporting "accurate" news.
‘‘VOA Khmer will continue broadcasting and reporting in the same objective and professional manner we have done for more than five decades, providing timely, accurate and enterprising Khmer-language news of the world, the US, Asia and Cambodia each day to the 15 million citizens of Cambodia. It is those citizens who are our audience. They deserve quality news that they can trust," he wrote in an email.
Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan, the only government official who has publicly discussed the meeting since news of it was disclosed Tuesday, continued to stress that the meeting was amicable.
"What took place today, we didn't make any judgment, we just reminded them to look back at their own mission statement," he said.
"We are not accusing them of anything."
Asked about the RFA statement, he called the claims a manipulation of the truth.
"It was not a sign of intimidation, it was a sign to respect Cambodia as a sovereign nation… the way they [presented it] they manipulated, they were biased. It's unprofessional," he said.
To contact the reporter on this story: Abby Seiff at [email protected]