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Cambodia imposes and then drops ban on foreign-produced radio shows during election period

CCHR issued the following update on 1 July 2013:

Please note that since the information below was published, the Ministry of Information issued a letter (dated 29 June 2013) reversing the decision to ban foreign radio shows in the Khmer language from being broadcast for the whole month of the election period. According to the letter, this turnaround comes as a result of requests to the Ministry to undo the ban, although the letter does not specify from whom these requests were received.

The letter reversing the one-month ban also reminds all radio stations to follow instructions issued to them via another letter from the Ministry of Information on 21 June 2013. These instructions call for all radio stations to be neutral in their programming and reporting in the run up to the election, in order to allow for a free and fair election to take place. The 21 June instructions also specify that broadcasts on polling and election procedure will not be permitted during the five days before the election or on the day of the election - 28 July 2013. All political propaganda will also be banned from the airwaves twenty-four hours before the election takes place.

CCHR's alert of 29 June 2013 follows:

The Ministry of Information issued two letters to all media agencies in Cambodia banning all foreign residents living in Cambodia from participating in the election campaign in support of any political parties, ordering all radio stations in the country to stop broadcasting international radio programs in Khmer during the whole month of the election campaign, stop broadcasting any international radio programs on the surveys and results of the surveys related to the election process and stop broadcasting on the election campaigns during a certain time period.

On 28 June 2013, the Cambodian Center for Independent Media received two letters from the Ministry of Information, one letter dated on 21 June 2013 with the signature from Mr. Khieu Kanharith himself, calling on all media to be neutral in broadcasting the news and respect all the regulations and procedures regarding the upcoming election. At the same time the letter called for all media to stop publishing and live broadcasting international radio programs on the surveys, and results of the surveys that related to the process of the election 5 days in advance of the election and stop all broadcasting on the election campaigns in the period of 24 hours before and on the election day.

Another letter dated 25 June 2013 bearing the signature of the deputy minister, Ouk Prathna, prevented all foreigners residing in Cambodia from conducting or participating in election campaigns to support any parties and all instructed FM radio stations to stop broadcasting international radio programs in Khmer for the whole period of the 31 days during the election campaigns. The letter also added that if any radio station did not act in accordance with the specifications as stated in the letter, the Ministry of Information would take measures according to the law.

There is a widespread belief that this letter was aimed at Radio Free Asia (RFA), Radio Voice of America (VOA) and Radio Australia which always provide independent news and in-depth analysis so that citizens are well informed and better able to participate in social, cultural, and political life. Consequently, the listeners could not now listen to the broadcasts of RFA and VOA on their regular broadcasting time on 28 June 2013. Beehive radio station tried to broadcast at its usual time of 8.30 pm, for 15 minutes, then it was stopped by a phone call from the Ministry of Information. Radio FM 102 MHz also stopped broadcasting during their regular broadcasting time.

During the commune election in June 2012, there was also an order from the Ministry of Information banning a few radio stations from broadcasting on the election process for 2 days before elections and on the election day.

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