Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Trump ban cited in media threat



Trump ban cited in media threat

Council of Ministers spokesperson Phay Siphan, photographed at a local media studio. Facebook
Council of Ministers spokesperson Phay Siphan, photographed at a local media studio. Facebook

Trump ban cited in media threat

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan took to Facebook on Saturday to threaten to “crush” media entities that endanger “peace and stability”, citing US President Donald Trump’s treatment of the press as a justification for the warning.

Specifically naming news services Voice of Democracy, Voice of America and Radio Free Asia, the government spokesman told all “foreign agents” to “consider a new use of airtime as well as published stories” or risk being dismantled.

In the post, Siphan referenced the recent White House decision to exclude certain media outlets like CNN and the New York Times from attending a meeting in the press secretary’s office on Thursday.

“Donald Trump’s ban of international media giants … sends a clear message that President Trump sees that news published by those media institutions does not reflect the real situation,” Siphan wrote in an apparent reference to Trump’s tendency to label news as “fake”.

“Freedom of expression must be located within the domain of the law and take into consideration national interests and peace. The president’s decision has nothing to do with democracy or freedom of expression,” Siphan continued.

Reached on the phone yesterday, Siphan doubled down on his comments, saying they were a “warning to return to professionalism and responsibility”.

When asked what would happen to a media outlet that does not heed this warning, Siphan said “Shut it down, very simple. Expel them”.

“We wish to see diversity of ideas, but we are one nation and must be all together,” he added.

Ouk Kimseng, spokesman for the Ministry of Information, supported Siphan’s comments. “Any article or writing that leads to destabilisation might face these consequences,” he said, defining “destabilisation” as anything that incites or lures people to commit a crime.

The threats to media outlets were met with alarm by democracy advocates. Neb Sinthay, director of the Advocacy and Policy Institute, said these comments are a “big concern”.

“I don’t believe the professional media harms the country . . . in general, they serve the best interest of society,” said Sinthay.

“Cambodia is really restricted for freedom of expression . . . we are worried about the human rights aspect,” he added.

His concerns were echoed by Wan-Hea Lee, of the UN Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights. “Any measures to censure or arbitrarily shut down media outlets would be inconsistent with Cambodian laws and policies,” she said.

“With respect to the comment regarding foreign-funded media outlets, it should be noted that the Press Law allows foreigners to own Khmer-language newspapers,” Lee added.

Representatives from the US Embassy declined to comment, as did VOD director Nop Vy and Jeevita Sun, senior editor at RFA. The US provides direct funding to VOA and RFA.

MOST VIEWED

  • Phnom Penh placed in two-week lockdown

    The government has decided to place Phnom Penh in lockdown for two weeks, effective April 14 midnight through April 28, as Cambodia continues to grapple with the ongoing community outbreak of Covid-19, which has seen no sign of subsiding. According to a directive signed by Prime Minister

  • Cambodia on the verge of national tragedy, WHO warns

    The World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia warned that the country had reached another critical point amid a sudden, huge surge in community transmission cases and deaths. “We stand on the brink of a national tragedy because of Covid-19. Despite our best efforts, we are

  • Hun Sen: Stay where you are, or else

    Prime Minister Hun Sen warned that the two-week lockdown of Phnom Penh and adjacent Kandal provincial town Takmao could be extended if people are not cooperative by staying home. “Now let me make this clear: stay in your home, village, and district and remain where

  • Businesses in capital told to get travel permit amid lockdown through One Window Service

    The Phnom Penh Municipal Administration has issued guidelines on how to get travel permission for priority groups during the lockdown of Phnom Penh, directing private institutions to apply through the municipality's One Window Service and limit their staff to a mere two per cent. In

  • Vaccination open to foreigners in Cambodia

    The Ministry of Health on April 8 issued an announcement on Covid-19 vaccination for foreigners residing and working in Cambodia, directing the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training and local authorities to register them. Health minister Mam Bun Heng, who is also head of the inter-ministerial

  • Ministry names types of business permitted amid lockdown

    The Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training singled out 11 types of business that are permitted to operate during the lockdown of Phnom Penh and Takmao town, which run through April 28. Those include (1) food-processing enterprises and slaughterhouses; (2) providers of public services such as firefighting, utility and