Staff at two television stations said on Sunday they had received online messages, apparently from a government official, ordering them to cease reporting on murder cases, but the official and a government spokesman claimed to have no knowledge of the edict.
An undated Facebook message supposedly sent by Svay Sitha, a secretary of state at the Council of Ministers, was circulated among members of the media on Sunday. It ordered “television stations to stop broadcasting pictures and information related to murder stories from now on.”
“Please, your excellencies and all managers at state- and private-run television stations, cooperate and implement the order strictly,” read the message, which was sent by a Facebook account under the name “Svay Sitha Sitha Svay.”
Contacted on Sunday, Mr. Sitha denied issuing the order and said the Facebook account was not his, adding that he owned an old Nokia mobile phone incapable of sending Facebook messages.
“I think that journalists are confused,” he said. “It does not belong to me; many people have the same name as me in Cambodia, and I don’t know about this order.”
“I think that someone used my name because they wanted to criticize the government,” he added, before hanging up on a reporter.
Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan declined to comment and referred questions to Tith Sothea, spokesman for the council’s Press and Quick Reaction Unit. Mr. Sothea said he knew nothing about the alleged order.
Meas Rithy, a news anchor at Hang Meas TV, said his staff received the order “from the Council of Ministers on Saturday” but declined to discuss it further, as he had not seen it himself.
Sam Chhaya, director-general of PNN, said he also received the order on Saturday and had passed it on to his editor-in-chief, Pen Bonnar.
Mr. Bonnar, who is also president of the Club of Cambodian Journalists, said he had not seen the order, but that Information Minister Khieu Kanharith had recently instructed TV stations to stop broadcasting images of mangled bodies—a common sight on daily news programs.
“We recently received an order from the Information Ministry asking private and state-run television stations to stop broadcasting savage murder stories and pictures of people killed in traffic accidents,” he said.
Mr. Kanharith and Ouk Kimseng, an undersecretary of state at the ministry, were unavailable.
Huy Vannak, news editor at CTN and CNC, said he had no knowledge of the order but that it would be a step forward in a country where gruesome images are a staple of both print and television media.
“I have not yet seen the order, but I wish to express my support for the order because it would make for improved social morality,” he said. “Broadcasting and publishing murder stories is like killing the victim two times.”