The government has slammed broadcasters Radio Free Asia and Voice of America as “political instruments serving the interests of the opposition party” and accused them of fabricating news in a speech delivered by Deputy Prime Minister Sok An on Tuesday.
The US-government-funded broadcasters have been taken to task before by the government for their critical views, but the latest statements, released in full by the Council of Ministers’ Press and Quick Reaction Unit (PQRU), are directly linked to their election coverage.
“The CNRP has been supported by foreign broadcasting media, especially the Voice of America and Radio Free Asia which broadcast live in Khmer language,” the statement, which addresses a report from the Election Reform Alliance (ERA), says. “Before and after the election, these two radio networks, which are directly supported by a foreign government, have broadcast biased information in violation of media professional ethics. They are the political instruments serving the interests of the opposition party and much of their news is fabricated and manipulated.”
Both VOA and RFA repudiated charges of bias or fabrication in statements last night.
“The Voice of America strongly rejects any suggestion that it fabricates or manipulates its news broadcasts or shows favor toward any political party. VOA reporting is required by our legally mandated charter and our journalistic principles to be ‘accurate, objective and comprehensive’,” one statement reads.
RFA added that the PQRU’s statement was intended to have a chilling effect on the media.
“This unfortunate statement from The Cambodian Council of Ministers Press and Quick Reaction Unit is only the latest in a series of actions intended to intimidate free, independent media and journalism in Cambodia,” the broadcaster said.
The ERA report criticised the broadcast media environment as being biased towards the ruling party, an allegation that the PQRU rejected, citing not just RFA and VOA, but the use of social media networks by the CNRP to “disseminate false and manipulated information to cause sabotage and unrest in the society”.
The statement also fingers The Phnom Penh Post and The Cambodia Daily as having “mostly published negative views discrediting the Royal Government and the CPP”.
Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan yesterday singled out RFA as having a mission to “abuse sovereignty", but said there would be no efforts to gag the broadcaster.
“Ninety per cent at least of [RFA’s] content is to insult the government; they never feel shame to use words to insult the prime minister and the government. VOA is a little more moderate,” he said. “We respect press freedom based on ethics and professionalism. We do not expect RFA to support the government or support the CPP.”
In October 2012, both VOA and RFA were summoned to the Council of Ministers for a secretive meeting that RFA later called a “blatant attempt to discourage objective reporting on the government”.