WASHINGTON DC - Government spokesman Phay Siphan defended Cambodia’s record on press freedoms Monday, telling “Hello VOA” that despite the harassment many journalists report while covering sensitive topics, authorities are “trying our best” to ensure constitutional freedoms.
However, many journalists disagree.
Pa Nguon Teang, executive director for the Center for Independent Media, told “Hello VOA” that journalists are under “constant threat” from the government.
The discussion comes as Mam Sonando, one of the country’s few independent broadcast operators is in jail, serving a 20-year sentence on charges that rights groups say are likely fabricated, that he fomented a secessionist movement in Kratie province. It also follows a summons from the government of US broadcasters Voice of America and Radio Free Asia earlier this month.
“We have been trying our best to put in place laws and ensure press freedom as per our constitution,” Phay Siphan said. “At the same time, we have trained more than 500 press officers and spokesmen and created a journalism school to [improve] our human resources. These are all to ensure the space of free press.”
Media coverage is not censored in Cambodia, he said.
Pa Nguon Teang disagreed. “Compared to the international standard, we are still far behind,” he said. “Reporting on sensitive issues like illegal logging is still dangerous.”
Meanwhile, he said, “the government can simply take any station off the air it wants.” The summons of VOA and RFA for a closed-door meeting with government officials, given their support from the US government, “makes us local journalists feel scared,” he said.