The operator of an FM radio frequency has been warned to stop offering airtime to the Women’s Media Centre (WMC), a station that has focused on women’s issues for the last 19 years, as she does not have permission from the Ministry of Information to do so.
Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith on Wednesday ordered Chea Sundaneth, the former manager of WMC and the owner of 102FM, to stop renting out her frequency without ministry approval.
“In order to respect the law, if you want to continue selling airtime on 102FM’s frequency, please follow the procedures seeking approval from the ministry first,” he said.
The ministry gave Sundaneth two weeks to do so, threatening legal action.
Sundaneth yesterday declined to comment in detail. “To be short, I really am guilty, I acknowledge my guilt,” she said. “I cannot talk more. I am checking on [the letter] now.”
A senior WMC employee, who requested anonymity, said the radio station had been broadcasting on the frequency free of charge for the past 19 years.
“We are concerned,” the employee said. “We became a vocal voice for women. We have produced many programs to empower women in society and produce programs to end domestic violence.”
WMC also broadcast Voice of America and Radio Free Asia programs until the government shuttered nearly 20 stations in August for doing so without permission. At the time, Kanharith announced that WMC had been given leeway because of its social mission.
Ministry of Information spokesman Ouk Kimseng said that when a frequency is owned privately, it cannot subcontract it without notifying the Information Ministry.
“Let’s wait and see for the technical and administrative department to review,” he said.
Moeun Chhean Nariddh, director of Cambodian Institute for Media Studies, said it would be a blow for women’s rights were the station to close.
“It’s very sad. Not only for press freedom, but also for women and children, because we need to have their voices heard and issues addressed separately,” he said.
“Women and children are often forgotten by media outlets.”
He explained the station had increased its bandwidth substantially over the years alongside growing popularity.