Cambodia: leading independent news got licence revokedEvent
- Initial Date
- Feb 13, 2023
- Event Description
The government this morning revoked the media operating licence of the Cambodian Center for Independent Media (CCIM), parent of the bilingual outlet Voice of Democracy (VOD), one of Cambodia’s few remaining independent media outlets.
The Ministry of Information revoked the licence after Prime Minister Hun Sen and his son, army commander Hun Manet, took issue with a 9 February VOD article that featured reactions from various people. This included a comment from government spokesperson Phay Siphan regarding the claim that Hun Manet had signed an agreement providing financial assistance to Türkiye. Both Manet and the prime minister later took to social media to deny that Manet had signed the document.
On 11 February, Hun Sen wrote on his Facebook page that VOD had 72 hours to apologise to the government and Hun Manet, or else he would direct the Ministry of Information to revoke VOD’s media operating licence. He later shortened this arbitrary deadline to expire on 10am on 13 February. Article 10 of the Press Law specifies the right of public figures who believe media have published false allegations with malicious intent to demand a retraction and sue in court to demand retractions, compensation, or both.
Following a meeting with Ministry of Information officials on 12 February, CCIM issued a letter addressed to Hun Sen expressing VOD’s “regret” and requesting “forgiveness [for] any unintentional wrongdoing”. VOD Khmer also published an article that evening outlining Hun Sen and Hun Manet’s denials.
Hun Sen rejected the apology via a Facebook post, stating that he was unable to accept the words “regret” and “forgiveness” in place of the word “apologise”, and ordered the Ministry of Information to revoke VOD’s licence. CCIM issued an additional letter of apology. Hun Sen again rejected the apology on Facebook in the early morning of 13 February. Several internet service providers had blocked access to VOD’s websites as of this morning.
VOD has become one of the most important independent media outlets in the country in recent years, publishing in Khmer and English. VOD journalists have written more than 60 stories over more than a year documenting widespread slave compounds where trafficked people are forced to conduct cyberscams. In August last year, five VOD journalists were detained and one was struck by the prime minister’s bodyguard unit while reporting on the recently deforested Phnom Tamao forest. The outlet also published dozens of stories from across the country documenting the repressive political space in the lead-up to the 2022 Commune Elections.
The shutdown of an independent media outlet is similar to the crackdown on journalists ahead of the last national election in 2018. In late 2017, the Cambodia Daily was shuttered over an arbitrary tax bill and in 2018 the Phnom Penh Post was sold to a firm with links to the government while facing pressure following a similar arbitrary tax bill. The government also shuttered dozens of radio frequencies carrying broadcasts of Radio Free Asia (RFA), Voice of America (VOA) and VOD.
- Impact of Event
- Gender of HRD
- Other (e.g. undefined, organisation, community)
- Rights Concerned
- Media freedom
- Freedom of expression
- Media Worker
- Monitoring Status
- Event Location
- Event Location
- Summary for Publications
On 13 February 2022, the Cambodian Center for Independent Media (CCIM), parent of the bilingual outlet Voice of Democracy (VOD), leading independent media outlet had its licence revoked as result of his reporting by the Ministry of Information in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.