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Journalists' organisation condemns brutal attack by Cambodian police on Radio Beehive protest

Protesters calling for an independent TV station clash with riot policemen near the Ministry of Information in Phnom Penh, 27 January 2014
Protesters calling for an independent TV station clash with riot policemen near the Ministry of Information in Phnom Penh, 27 January 2014

REUTERS/Samrang Pring

On 29 January 2014, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) condemned a brutal attack by Cambodian police on media workers at a protest in in front of the Ministry of Information in Phnom Penh on Monday 27 January. A photographer from AFP was injured at the protest held by supporters of the independent Radio Beehive FM 105Mhz station.

According to IFJ affiliate, the Cambodian Association for Protection of Journalists (CAPJ), police used electric batons and smoke bombs to break up the protest which involved around 600 people and was organised to express anger over the government's refusal to grant the station licences to expand its broadcast range and establish a television station.

CAPJ said that most of Cambodia's existing stations are closely allied with Prime Minister Hun Sen's ruling Cambodian People's Party. In this instance, the government claims no frequencies are available for Radio Beehive to use.

At least seven people are understood to have been injured in the melee as over 100 police dispersed the protest, including AFP news agency photographer, Tain Chinsothy.

In addition to the injuries sustained by protesters during the attack, members of the media covering the demonstration had vital equipment such as iPads damaged and destroyed.

"We strongly condemn this appalling attack on a peaceful gathering to protest a government decision to prevent the expansion of an independent radio station's network," said IFJ Asia Pacific Director Jacqui Park.

The IFJ is also deeply concerned about the government's rejection of Radio Beehive's license on dubious claims that no licenses are available.

"The decision of the government to refuse the license for Radio Beehive, followed by the brutal action of the Cambodian police, clearly indicates an attempt by the country's authorities to undermine press freedom and freedom of expression in Cambodia," the director said.

"This is clearly an attempt to control the potential for criticism and alternative voices outside government-sanctioned outfits."

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