PHNOM PENH - The Cambodian government on Wednesday summoned reporters for the Voice of America and Radio Free Asia to a meeting it said was an attempt to gain “cooperation” from the two news agencies.
The meeting, held at the Council of Ministers, was closed to the public and included various government officials, reporters for the two agencies, and US Embassy representatives.
US Embassy spokesman Sean McIntosh declined to comment on the specifics of the meeting, but he said the US “supports freedom of expression and press, and through its reporting, VOA and RFA seek to epitomize that.”
The Cambodian government has faced increasing international criticism over its treatment of rights workers and journalists. The US-based Freedom House has declared the country’s media environment “not free,” and there are few remaining broadcast media outlets that are not controlled by the government or its supporters.
Earlier this month, the Cambodian courts, which have been criticized for political bias toward Prime Minister Hun Sen and his ruling Cambodian People’s Party, sentenced Beehive Radio owner Mam Sonando to 20 years in prison for allegedly helping foment a secessionist movement. Beehive Radio carries programming for both VOA and RFA.
Government spokesman Phay Siphan said Wednesday’s meeting was “not a threat” to the two news agencies, which are funded by the US government.
‘‘VOA Khmer will continue broadcasting and reporting in the same objective and professional manner we have done for more than five decades, providing timely, accurate and enterprising Khmer-language news of the world, the US, Asia and Cambodia each day to the 15 million citizens of Cambodia,” VOA Khmer service chief Chris Decherd said in a statement. “It is those citizens who are our audience. They deserve quality news that they can trust.’’