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‘Limited’ Freedom in Radio: Broadcaster

Cambodia’s airwaves are suffering from limited freedom of expression and political bias, a prominent radio station director said Thursday.

“If we take a look, we don’t clearly know about the freedom of press in Cambodia,” Mam Sonando, who runs Beehive Radio on FM105, told “Hello VOA” during a studio visit to Washington. Speaking only for his own radio station, “freedom of expression exists, but is limited,” he said.

There are limitations on what can be said, while stations friendly to the ruling Cambodian People’s Party seem more able to increase their coverage.

“We’ve asked for permission to do so, but have been turned down,” said Mam Sonando, who is on a fund raising visit to the US.

Twenty radio stations operate in Phnom Penh, with another 25 in the countryside, while nine television stations can be found across the country.

Political observers say the ruling party tends to receive much coverage of development projects and other positive events, helping it at the polls, while opposition parties are often limited to brief media access during campaign periods, a requirement of election law.

Mam Sonando has been jailed twice by the government, most recently in 2005, for programming related to border agreements between Cambodia and Vietnam.

He emphasized the importance of freedom of expression to improve the country, and he allowed the government to allow more.