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Groups Condemn Violence in Beehive Crackdown

Cambodian riot police officers block protesters led by Cambodia's most prominent human rights defender Mam Sonando demanding the government to allow him to open a new television channel in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Monday, Jan. 27, 2014.
Reporters Without Borders and Freedom House have condemned a violent crackdown on supporters of Beehive Radio, who were beaten during demonstrations Monday.

Beehive owner Mam Sonando called for demonstrations in opposition of the government’s refusal to grant a license for an expansion of his operations.

Beehive, which carries Voice of America and Radio Free Asia programming, is one of the few remaining independent broadcasters in Cambodia.

The Ministry of Information refused to grant it permission to expand its radio operations into more provinces across the country and to start a television station.

Riot police armed with electric batons and throwing smoke grenades clashed with Beehive supporters near the Ministry of Information on Monday.

“We strongly condemn violence against media professionals who demand more resources to freely inform their fellow citizens,” Reporters Without Borders said in an e-mailed statement.

The group said it rejected the Ministry of Information’s assertion that there is no more space on the radio frequency spectrum to accommodate Beehive’s expansion.

Karin Deutsch Karlekar, a senior researcher for Freedom House, told VOA Khmer that Mam Sonando remains a “key figure” in Cambodia’s media environment, making him a target of the authorities.

Mam Sonando was jailed for nearly eight months in 2013 for an alleged role in a sedition plot that his supporters widely rejected as contrived.

“Broadcast media is very much still under the control of the state,” Karlekar said.

The Beehive demonstration was “trying to further open the broadcast media space,” she said. “And the government, it’s not interested in trying to engage in this issue or to open the media environment.”