Civil society organisations and local communities yesterday called on the government to cancel an order banning all media from broadcasting foreign election-related reports in the five days before the election.
The joint statement, signed by 21 civil society groups, comes after the government on Saturday rescinded a June 25 ban that imposed a 31-day block on foreign radio broadcasts, after it became public and caused widespread outrage on Friday.
It strongly condemned an earlier ban issued on June 21 – prohibiting foreign media reports concerning opinion polls, surveys and election results – that remains in place.
“We, the undersigned civil society organisations, call upon the government to take specific steps to ensure a free and fair media in the run-up to the July 29 elections,” the statement said.
At this point, few are “under the illusion” that the election will be free and fair, president of Licadho Pung Chiv Kek said.
“But these attempts at directly censoring independent foreign media reports suggest that the government doesn’t even care about making it look fair and balanced,” she said.
With the ruling party controlling much of local Khmer media, local outlets are unable to report as freely as foreign-owned media, the statement said.
“The June 21 ban’s focus on foreign media indicated that its true purpose is to limit Cambodians access to independent [critical] media sources,” Pa Nguon Tean, head of the Cambodian Center for Independent Media, said.
Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said the five-day ban was simply designed to keep the election peaceful.
“I understand the media try to help the voiceless to be heard . . . But let the people decide, not the media,” he said.