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Kratie Radio Will Not Reopen: Ministry

The Minister of Information on Friday denied an appeal by a local human rights group to reopen a Kratie radio station that aired messages from four competing political parties.

The Angkor Ratha station, broadcasting on FM105.25, operated for only two weeks before it was shuttered by a ministry order May 28.

"The abrupt closure of this radio station reflects very poorly on the government's commitment to allowing democratic debate prior to the July national elections," said Kek Galabru, president of the rights group Licdho, in an appeal Thursday to have the radio reopened. "It also highlights how freedom of expression and information is tightly controlled on Cambodia's radio and television stations, particularly in rural areas."

Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said Friday he will not allow the station to continue its broadcasts.

"The station owner broke the agreement," he said. "Before making an appeal, Licadho should first look into the Angkor Ratha radio station's contract or agreement in Kratie province."

The station had broken with its agreement, and its closure was not an issue of media freedom, he said.

"Media freedom cannot break the law or written contract," he said.

Keo Chan Ratha, the station's owner, has acknowledged breaking his original agreement with the ministry, which states he must inform the ministry if he sells air time to other entities.

But Kek Galabru said Thursday the requirement in the radio license amounted to "censorship."

"Radio stations should not have to seek Ministry of Information permission to broadcast the programs of political parties, NGOs or other organizations," she said.

Keo Chan Ratha urged the ministry to reconsider its decision "for the need of the people."