Ministry Seeks Dialogue After Media Mogul’s ‘Thieves’ Insult

The Information Ministry plans to convene a roundtable discussion between a popular radio host who has branded the country’s journalists as “thieves” and a group of reporters who sent a letter to the ministry requesting its intervention, an official said on Tuesday.

Seng Bunveng, better known as Aja A, the controversial owner of the local ABC radio station, last week labeled journalists as “thieves” during a broadcast. In response, more than 20 media organizations sent a letter to the Information Ministry seeking its help in securing an apology from the media mogul.

ABC radio owner Seng Bunveng speaks to reporters and supporters during a ceremony at Phnom Penh City Hall in August. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
ABC radio owner Seng Bunveng speaks to reporters and supporters during a ceremony at Phnom Penh City Hall in August. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

Contacted yesterday, Ouk Kimseng, an undersecretary of state at the ministry, said he was attempting to arrange a meeting between the outspoken radio host and the disgruntled reporters.

However, if individual journalists believe they were victimized because the accusation “lacks certain evidence,” they should bring cases to the court, Mr. Kimseng said. “Because it has escalated on a big scale, it is hard for us to say who he was accusing,” he added.

Meas Rithy, a news anchor at Hang Meas TV, acknowledged there were rogue reporters in the country, but said Aja A should have been more specific in his vitriol.

“As a journalist, I think that for Aja A to use the words that ‘journalists are thieves,’ we cannot accept it,” he said. “He should have said ‘some’ journalists or mentioned certain institutions to avoid affecting journalists who behave well.”

Moeun Chhean Nariddh, director of the Cambodian Institute for Media Studies, criticized Aja A’s remarks, but said his right to freedom of expression should be respected—particularly by journalists.

“From what I know, some in our group sued Aja A, but I don’t want them to sue because we want to empower expression,” he said.

This is the second time the eccentric radio host has been involved in verbal controversy in as many months. He called government bureaucrats “monkeys” after last month’s seizure and abrupt return of an unlicensed ABC ambulance, which was also being used to deliver a branded line of fruit juices.

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