11 Oct, 2012
Radio Free Asia has accused the Cambodian government of intimidation after officials summoned the station and fellow US-funded broadcaster Voice of America to discuss their "professionalism".
Traffic rides past the front of the Peace Palace in central Phnom Penh in July 2012. Radio Free Asia has accused the Cambodian government of intimidation after officials summoned the station and fellow US-funded broadcaster Voice of America to discuss their "professionalism"."The meeting was nothing more than a blatant attempt to discourage objective reporting on the government," RFA said in a statement sent to AFP late on Wednesday following the meeting.
"The Cambodian government clearly does not understand the principles of a free press or the important role of independent media if it thinks it can intimidate RFA and dictate what we can or cannot report on."
The meeting came just a week after both stations, who broadcast news in the local Khmer language, reported on the outcry that followed the jailing of a prominent activist Mam Sonando for an alleged secessionist plot, in a case decried by rights groups as a politically motivated attempt to silence dissent.
Government spokesman Phay Siphan, who was at the closed-door talks with representatives from VOA and RFA, said the purpose of the encounter was "to strengthen the quality of professionalism" in their reports and raise the issue of "paying respect to the Cambodian culture".
"We don't accuse anyone," he said. "We want a good relationship between media and the government... but the free press has to be responsible."
But sources who also attended the meeting told AFP that officials reproached RFA in particular for its critical reporting, particularly its coverage of the Mam Sonando case.
"It was clear the government was not happy with RFA's reporting," said one source who did not wish to be named, adding that there was "definitely intimidation".
VOA Khmer service chief Chris Decherd, who is based in the US, said its reporters would continue to provide news "in the same objective and professional manner" to the people of Cambodia.
"It is those citizens who are our audience. They deserve quality news that they can trust," he said in a statement.
In a country where local mainstream media is tightly controlled by the powerful ruling party, VOA and RFA are among the rare media outlets to broadcast news critical of the government in the Khmer language.
Cambodia is ranked 117th out of 179 countries in the 2011-2012 press freedom index compiled by watchdog Reporters Without Borders.