Local rights group Licadho on Thursday called on the Information Ministry to reverse its decision to shut down a private radio station in Kratie province that sold airtime to political parties.
FM105.25, which began broadcasting May 15, was closed by the Information Ministry on May 28 for broadcasting programs by the SRP, the Human Rights Party, the Norodom Ranariddh Party, Funcinpec and the League for Democracy.
“Licadho urges the Ministry of Information to immediately reinstate FM 105.25’s license and to remove the requirement that the station must seek permission before selling airtime to political parties or other organizations,” Licadho said in a statement.
Licadho President Kek Galabru said the closure of the station “reflects poorly on the government’s commitment to allowing democratic debate prior to the July national elections.”
“It seems the government wants to restrict freedom of information in the countryside,” Kek Galabru said in the statement.
Information Minister and government spokesman Khieu Kanharith could not be reached for comment Thursday, but said May 30 that the closure was due to a violation of the station’s license.
He maintained that the ministry must be vigilant, as FM105.25 could have sold airtime to groups such as al-Qaida, the militant Islamic group behind the Sept 11, 2001 attacks on the US.
Information Secretary of State Mao Ayuth declined to comment on the Licadho statement Thursday.
CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap on Thursday denied that the government was censoring the media.
“We don’t restrict villagers to listen to the radio,” he said.
Keo Chan Rotha, owner of the closed station, as well as FM95.5 in Siem Reap province, said Thursday that the Information Ministry told him to reapply for a new license under a new name.
“I don’t agree,” Keo Chan Rotha said by telephone, adding that he believed he did nothing wrong.
“If I agree, it would be admitting that we made a mistake. According to the press law, we are right.”