Phnom Penh (FN), Feb. 13 – On the evening of February 12, 2023, using the right to protect the honor and dignity of the Royal Government, Samdech Techo Prime Minister Hun Sen has instructed the Ministry of Information to revoke the VOD’s radio license and cease its broadcast by 10am on February 13, 2023.
The decision of Samdech Techo Prime Minister came after Samdech Techo and H.E. Hun Manet had offered sufficient opportunities for the radio management to present evidence [to justify its claim] and publicly apologize for their professional misconduct in spreading false and inciting information with slanderous and defamatory allegation against H.E. Hun Manet for acting on behalf of Samdech Techo Hun Sen to sign documents on disaster relief for earthquake victims in Turkey.
The truth is there has never been such act of signing. Furthermore, the radio station has committed a serious mistake by having damaged and made an insult to the prestige of the Royal Government’s Leader as well as the Royal Government itself, intending to break up this Executive Entity. As a response to its serious defect, this foreign-funded radio has only expressed a regret asking for a forgiveness, which is not an apology. By simply expressing a regret and asking for a forgiveness if proven wrong, the radio had the intention to avoid its responsibility in issuing a public apology. This is even more insulting and dishonoring the Royal Government.
In fact, the VOD radio explicitly rejected to acknowledge its professional misconduct and the fact that it had also distorted facts through the involvement of inexperienced and politically motivated radio-speakers whose intention was to ruin the H.E. Hun Manet’s reputation and to allegedly attack the Royal Government and Samdech Techo Hun Sen over an omission of government duty, which in contrary was properly and timely proceeded according to the government’s legal procedures. By broadcasting the false information with the use of a third party’s hand to launch an attack on both Samdech Techo and H.E. Hun Manet, the VOD radio does not disseminate news that can inform or provide knowledge to Cambodian listeners. In the contrary, it has become a platform for devious and cruel attacks to tarnish the image of Samdech Techo Prime Minister and H.E. Hun Manet, the Cambodian People's Party's future prime ministerial candidate. VOD broadcasts have long been malicious in their coverage, embedded with a slanderous or anti-government agenda to mislead people and undermine government leadership, and to lower the trust of the people in the leadership of the Royal Government, the Cambodian People's Party and the Cambodian national leadership.
As a response to this case, Samdech Techo Hun Sen stated in a Facebook post: “I have held various positions in the Government for more than 44 years, including the more than 38 years in the position of Prime Minister, I truly understand the words used and their nuances, including the statements/interviews by some of the radio-speakers on legal aspects related to the provision of aid to Turkey, launching the attack on both the father [Samdech Techo Hun Sen] and the son [H.E. Hun Manet], who in fact did not know anything. Is this a media profession that you want to inadvertently promote?”
The decision of the Head of the Royal Government to revoke the license of the VOD radio and its broadcasts was welcomed by the Cambodian people with comments on Samdech Techo's Facebook page such as:
“I support the decision of the Royal Government, with no backing down on the foreign-backed radio that violated the professional ethics, abusing the rights of others and the Royal Government, and who did not sincerely apologize for its misconduct”.
“The professional dignity of a foreign-hired reporters group like yours [VOD] is hurting and damaging the reputation of others, and in the end you[VOD] simply showed remorse.
“Khmer people cannot accept [the VOD’s malicious act], and support the Royal Government's action on this foreign-backed radio”
“Is such decision strange? It is not uncommon to the rest of the world when the Royal Government decides to revoke the license of a radio, who does not comply with the professional code of conduct. The absence of a radio that always broadcasts false and inciting information to spoil the social environment will in no way impede the freedom of the press, nor affect the freedom of expression in Cambodia, but it is seen that it will strengthen the implementation of the law and journalism profession in Cambodia, promoting the value of the media profession.
In the past, some countries, including especially the United States and European countries, who are the VOD’s donors, used to have imposed restrictions or bans Chinese and Russian media from operating/broadcasting on their territory in order to protect the national interest of the United States and those European countries. So, those countries have no legitimacy or honor to condemn or criticize or advise others on the freedom of the press since they could not even make it work in their own countries. In this context, the Royal Government's action on the VOD radio’s distorted, slanderous and provocative broadcasts, which aim to destroy the Government’s reputation and people’s trust in the Royal Government and the national leadership for the benefit of the political interests of the VOD’s donors and opposition politicians, represents a measure for strengthening the rule of law and professional journalism ethics and standards.
This measure should not be interpreted as a violation of the law against journalists or as a suppression of the freedom of the press. On the contrary, it must be seen as a contributing factor to upholding the value of the professional news reporting and journalism and the freedom of the press. The freedom of the press can only be promoted when the information is factual, backed by a professionally organized dissemination with respect to quality and professional standards in favor of people’s knowledge for the benefit of the Cambodian society.
Spreading false information will only be polluting the social environment and be causing dangers to the society, and the Royal Government of Cambodia has the duty to take action to protect the national interest the benefit of its own people, as well as safeguarding the freedom of the press as a whole.