The Ministry of Information has ordered the closure of 37 newspapers, magazines and other publications whose licenses it says have expired.
A number of rights organizations condemned the closures, but the ministry said the outlets had licenses that had lapsed by 10 years.
The Sept. 20 order calls for the closure of 16 newspapers, 15 magazines and six bulletins. Cambodia has around 500 such outlets.
Yem Noy, head of the Information Ministry’s media center, said Wednesday the order follows 10 years of extended licensing and that those who have not renewed their licenses are likely now defunct. Many of the outlets are no longer even at the addresses listed on their licenses, which date back from 2002, he said.
However, some of the outlets say they still want permission to publish, even if they aren’t currently.
Chea Kimsan, editor of the Chakrith Khmer newspaper, which is facing closure, said the ministry does not have the right to shut down the agencies, even though it retains the rights for licensing.
The ministry has not informed the outlets they would be need to renew their licenses, he said, but instead issued a decree for their closure.
“I’m very disappointed with the shutdown,” he said.
Moeurn Chheannarith, of the Cambodian Institute for Media Studies, said the shutdown was a violation of the constitution and press law. Only newspapers that have committed criminal offenses should be shut down, he said.
Am Sam Ath, lead investigator for the rights group Licadho, said the order would hurt outlets’ rights to information distribution. “This is a negative point,” he said.