A new report from media freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders has degraded Cambodia over its record on media freedoms in 2018.
In the group’s Press Freedom Index 2018 the group said Cambodia’s increasing closeness with China and fall out with the west had led to the increased restrictions, seeing its rank slip to 143 out of 180 nations included in the report.
“Worried by the prospect of losing the July 2018 general elections after more than 30 years in power, Prime Minister Hun Sen launched a pre-emptive war against the media in which around 30 radio stations were silenced and Cambodia Daily, an English-language newspaper that had helped to nurture Cambodia’s fragile democracy, was forced to close,” it said. “The last bastion of the independent press, the Phnom Penh Post, was bought by a Malaysian businessman with ties to the Cambodian government in May 2018.”
The report added that as a result of the crackdown Cambodians could largely only access new from government-approved media outlets.
“Journalists who still dare to do investigative reporting on subjects that are not to the regime’s liking, such as prostitution of minors, are imprisoned.”
Meas Sophorn, a spokesman for the Ministry of Information, dismissed the report, saying Cambodia was a “democratic country that respects press freedom”.
“So this is in contrast to the statement by some institutions that do not reflect the reality in Cambodia,” he added.
Cambodian Center for Independent Media director Nop Vy said that the report accurately reflected the slump in press freedom in Cambodia. He added that the government should regard media in any form as partners in their development strategy.
“There should be more openness in decision making or cooperation with some local radio stations, along with NGOs and other independent media outlets, in order to make it possible for people to obtain news from across the spectrum, or all political standpoints. This will help keep the people well-informed.”
At least 14 journalists have been killed in Cambodia since 1992, according to Reporters Without Borders.
A translator for a foreign media outlet was recently jailed and awaits trial while two journalists are under court surveillance and two others fled the countries due to charges from the authorities.