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PHNOM PENH – Cambodia’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations has condemned UN human rights experts who urged that VOD’s media licence be reinstated.
The experts, including Vitit Muntarbhorn, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia, said, “We are alarmed by the revocation of Voice of Democracy’s licence without due process, and with immediate effect in the run up to crucial national elections due in July this year.
“The revocation leaves virtually no free media outlets operating in the country.”
The radio station was stripped of its licence to broadcast in English and Khmer last week after reporting that Hun Manet signed off on quake aid for Turkey in the absence of his father Hun Sun. Apologies from the news outlet failed to reverse the decision.
In Geneva, the Cambodian Permanent Mission said, “It is with deep regret that three Special Rapporteurs (SR) have subscribed to a biased and prejudiced narrative as to the nature of a foreign-funded radio center in the Kingdom.
“An administrative action against a rule-breaking entity does not merit any concern at all. What should be alarming is the mounting disinformation and intentional slanders, which are condemned by law in every country,” it said.
“The media outlet in question engaged in spreading fake news and fabricating Cambodia’s internal affairs on humanitarian assistance delivery.
“The SR’s biased remarks purposefully overlooked an indisputable fact that the media center grossly breached the profession of journalism, harmed the honor and prestige of the Cambodian government, and refused to amend mistakes based on the provisions of the Law on Press Regime.
“Its Article 10 (b) stipulates, ‘In case of a public figure, any false allegation or imputation, which the journalist publishes or reproduces with malicious intent against such public figure, is libel and is prohibited.’
“To allege that the said measure leaves no free media outlets operating in the country is unfounded and highly political,” the mission said.
“Freedom of expression and media remains alive and dynamic. Ordinary people are being empowered through their unhindered access to mobile internet at the lowest cost in the region.
“Their voices are further amplified by the robust presence of nearly 2,000 digital and traditional media outlets, including the critical ones, which enjoy a guarantee of sources confidentiality and no censorship.
“A purported ‘independent’ status is not a license to break the law with impunity nor to evade responsibility and accountability.
“The legitimate move against an unprofessional media outlet does not undermine the vibrant press freedom in the Kingdom but contributes to the strengthening of the profession of journalism.
“Cambodia advocates professional journalism, which neither violates the rights of others nor twists the fact and is committed to holding of the upcoming national elections in a free, fair and just manner, the ones fully reflective of the people’s will.”
The UN experts said VOD, run by the Cambodian Center for Independent Media, published radio and online reports human rights issues, environmental crime and corruption.
“The world is watching Cambodia ahead of the July elections,” the said.
“Cambodia needs a vibrant civil society and independent media at this critical juncture, including media outlets that critically report on government policies. We strongly urge authorities to reverse the decision,” they said.
The other experts were: Mary Lawlor, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, and. Irene Khan, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression.