Yesterday, I wrote a short article on the closure of one of Cambodia’s few remaining independent media outlets on the order of Prime Minister Hun Sen. Voice of Democracy, commonly known as VOD, ceased its operations yesterday morning after the revocation of its media license, following a report last week about Cambodia’s earthquake aid to Turkey.
Over the past 24 hours, the move has since prompted widespread criticism from Cambodian civil society, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and many Western governments, which all issued some variation on the theme that they were “highly concerned” about the closure of VOD (Sweden) and said that they “believed in the free access of information as the basis for free and fair elections” (Germany). (Cambodia is scheduled to hold a national election in July.)
The Cambodian government has characteristically responded to this: by taking refuge in the law, and accusing foreign governments of interference in its internal affairs. In a statement issued late yesterday, the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs defended the media outlet’s closure as “an administrative action against a rule-breaking entity,” and asserted that it was consistent with a provision of the country’s press law outlawing the publication of falsehoods about public figures with “malicious intent.”