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Government Defends Ban on US Broadcasts During Election

Cambodian group of comedians and supporters of Prime Minister Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party, take part in a rally on the final campaign for the June 3 commune elections, in Phnom Penh, Friday, June 1, 2012.

A Ministry of Information official confirmed Monday the government had banned broadcasts of Voice of America and Radio Free Asia during the election Sunday.

San Putheary, chief of the audio-visual department at the ministry, told VOA Khmer the ban was to maintain a “quiet atmosphere” as Cambodians went to the polls to elect local leaders of commune councils.

“We banned all stations that handle VOA and RFA programs,” he said, adding that the ban had been conducted legally.

Chea Sundaneth, director of the Women’s Media Center, which broadcasts the US-government programming on FM102, said they had received a call from the ministry Thursday night and were told to cease the broadcasts. They also ceased broadcasts of Radio France International and Radio Australia.

Keo Rattha, owner of Angkor Rattha Radio, said he too had been ordered to cease broadcasts. The ban was extended to Voice of Democracy broadcasts on FM106.5.

An official for the National Election Committee said the election body was not aware of the ban. A US Embassy spokesman said officials there are “gathering all the facts” related to the ban.

“It’s harmful for free expression, for the right to access to information,” said Koul Panha, executive director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections. “And it harms the electoral process, which needs full information to ensure free and fair elections.”

Pro-government media and state-run TV were allowed to broadcast throughout Election Day, he said, “and they broadcast especially about [ruling Cambodian People’s Party] leaders.”