The Information Ministry has ordered all television and radio stations not to transfer or sell their licenses if they find themselves unable to continue operating, and to instead return their licenses to the ministry.
The ministry also told the stations in a statement to record all the programs they broadcast and keep them for at least 10 days after they go on air.
Information Minister and government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said Monday that he issued the statement, dated Thursday, after hearing that foreigners were trying to buy licenses given to Cambodians.
“We are afraid that foreign companies will use Cambodia’s media to campaign for their countries,” Khieu Kanharith said. It could be problematic if an anti-Hanoi organization was able to broadcast in Cambodia, he added.
Cambodia could become a “media battlefield” if the ministry permitted private transfer of the licenses, he said.
Some radio and television stations have previously failed to record their programs, and such records could be useful to stations involved in lawsuits, Khieu Kanharith said.
Mam Sonando, director of Beehive Radio, said television and radio station owners should also be allowed to privately sell their licenses.
“Companies have their strategies. If the businesses are not good, they must change,” he said, though he added: “It is the ministry’s work, not ours” to monitor the media.
SRP Secretary-General Mu Sochua claimed that the order is intended to block political parties other than the CPP from obtaining licenses, particularly ahead of April’s commune elections.
The SRP has been trying to obtain licenses to operate radio and television stations but has not been successful, she said.
Khieu Kanharith responded that political parties are not allowed to own radio or television stations.
“If we gave a license to the Sam Rainsy Party, we would have to give [them to] all 30 parties,” he said.