Two holdout radio stations that continued to air Radio Free Asia and Voice of America programming amid a government crackdown that took at least 19 stations off-air have been banned from airing their broadcasts.
The ban marks the end of the broadcasts of the U.S.-funded outlets in the Cambodian countryside.
Mam Sonando, the owner of Beehive Radio, said he was shocked to receive the information minister’s letter on Sunday prohibiting his radio station from broadcasting two of the only non-government-aligned news outlets in the country.
“All I can do now is follow the order from the ministry,” Mr. Sonando said on Sunday.
Chea Sun Daneth, director of the Women’s Media Center of Cambodia, also received a letter on Sunday and said she would immediately suspend Radio Free Asia (RFA) and Voice of America (VOA) broadcasts. The ministry said RFA and VOA “have not registered with the Information Ministry, so we just need to suspend their news broadcast,” Ms. Sun Daneth said on Sunday. “It is totally up to them.” Listeners on Sunday expressed dismay at the government’s decision to silence the popular sources of information in the country.
“The government is trying to cut us off from the world we live in, and it is getting worse,” said Doung Sarun, a farmer in Battambang province who has listened to the radio broadcasts regularly for more than 10 years. He said he would attempt to gather with friends and follow the outlets on the internet, but it would be difficult because his connection was slow.
Khov Leang Huot, a teacher in Kompong Thom province, wondered how he would stay informed now that the outlets had shuttered.
“Now, how can I hear the truth, the fearless reporting and the independent broadcasting?” Mr. Leang Huot asked, adding that he no longers watches television news because he doesn’t trust it. All independent radio stations except for Beehive Radio and Women’s Media Center stopped broadcasting VOA and RFA programming last week under orders from the Information Ministry, though the station’s managers said they had received complaints from their listeners about the absence.
Moeun Chhean Nariddh, director of the Cambodian Center for Independent Media, said the closures, including The Cambodia Daily, hurt free press in the country.
“In a democracy, we want to have diversified and pluralistic opinions for the general public,” he said. “I think any closure of either newspapers or radio stations is a loss for Cambodia.”