The Ministry of Information has refused to grant Kem Sokha’s Cambodian Center for Human Rights a license to operate a radio station, saying that Phnom Penh is already too saturated with radio broadcasts and newspapers.
Government officials had initially announced in November that they would not grant former senator and Funcinpec member Kem Sokha a license to broadcast on the country’s airwaves.
“We have too many radio stations and newspapers [broadcasting in Phnom Penh],” said Minister of Information Lu Laysreng on Thursday, adding that there are more than 20 radio broadcasters in the country.
Kem Sokha, who opened the human rights group in November, denounced the Ministry of Information’s decision as undemocratic.
“Without independent mass media, this country is not democratic,” Kem Sokha said Thursday, adding that the radio station would, if formed, criticize the government if it violated human rights and air programs on social issues, democracy and elections.
“They do not want to give us [a license] because our station does not belong to the state or a political party,” he said.
Although the Ministry of Information would not allow Kem Sokha to operate a radio station, it approved the formation of a new radio station headed by CPP-aligned Om Yentieng, who heads the government’s human rights commission.
Om Yentieng’s station, to be broadcast on FM 101, will begin programming in a few days, Lu Laysreng said.
The Ministry of Information approved a license for Om Yentieng’s radio station several years ago, and the station will broadcast education programs on human rights, democracy, culture and traditions, said Khieu Kanharith, secretary of state for the Ministry of Information.
Om Yentieng, however, denied that his radio station will begin broadcasting programs in a few days, saying that he has no financial support for the station.
Independent media is one of the biggest target areas for the international community as Cambodia prepares for the July general elections. The government has been criticized in the past for allowing the CPP too much airtime, while only allotting the smaller parties a fraction of the access granted the ruling party.