Prime Minister Hun Sen has reaffirmed his position that online news outlet VOD, which published in both Khmer and English and also produced radio programmes, will never be reopened.

The outlet was shuttered following its refusal to make corrections and apologise for an article which alleged that the premier’s son Hun Manet had signed a document authorising Cambodia’s earthquake reliefs to Turkiye on his behalf.

“This misleading article could have led to internal conflict in the cabinet, and I cannot forgive them for that. The revocation of their licence improves the professional ethics of the media in Cambodia,” he said, as he addressed a graduation ceremony of more than 2,000 students from the Human Resource University (HRU).

Hun Sen said the allegation that Manet, deputy commander-in-chief of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF), had signed the document was related to the management of the national budget and thus could not be tolerated.

“The closure of VOD has improved the professional ethics and freedom of media in Cambodia. Please do not think that VOD can be revived. This will never happen,” he continued.

He said he was aware that some civil society organisations and western diplomats had reacted negatively to the closure, but explained that foreigners should not interfere in Cambodia’s internal affairs without knowing the facts.

“Do not think that the opinion of some foreigners will lead to the reopening of this media outlet. If the opinion of western commentators was able to alter the laws of the Kingdom, would some dissolved political parties not still exist? Closing down this one outlet does not adversely affect Cambodia’s media freedom. On the contrary, it makes it stronger and improves the professional ethics of journalists,” he said.

Yang Peou, secretary-general of the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said the premier’s firm position stemmed from the fact that the outlet was reluctant to apologise and clarify their story, despite being given ample time to do so.

He added that the article has made a serious error, as Manet does not have the legal authority to allocate national funds or order any expenditure.

“If the government had not reacted to these allegations, the public – and the opposition parties – could have fallen under the impression that Hun Sen authorised his son to sign on his behalf. This could lead to misunderstandings about how his family works together and even allegations of nepotism,” he said.

Peou is of the view that the closure served as an example for other media organisations, and a reminder of the need to work professionally and ethically.

Poeu said that journalists must act as providers of clear information, rather than as judges or politicians.

The Ministry of Information officially revoked the licence of VOD for “grave professional misconduct”. It said the outlet tarnished the honour and prestige of the government, as they refused to run corrections in accordance with the provisions of the press law.