The Norodom Ranariddh Party radio show “Royalist Voices” is set to resume broadcast today on FM 105 Beehive radio, after a three-day suspension for criticizing Prime Minister Hun Sen, the station’s director said.
FM 105 Director Mam Sonando said Sunday that he suspended the program, which runs from 1 to 2 pm daily, on Friday because of inappropriate comments by hosts regarding a remark made by Hun Sen in an Oct 8 speech.
Hun Sen referenced a Cambodian legend wherein a deity helps a leper increase his station in life until the leper, now a king, asks to share the heavens with the deity. Offended, the deity banishes the leper back to his original state.
Though Hun Sen did not directly name Prince Norodom Ranariddh, it was clear to whom he was referring.
On Oct 9 and 10, Royalist Voices’ hosts made reference to the same legend in relation to the 1993 elections in which Prince Ranariddh, then Funcinpec president, won the vote but was forced to share the position of prime minister with Hun Sen.
Though the hosts did not explicitly liken Hun Sen to a leper, Mam Sonando said that the remark was a thinly veiled denunciation of the prime minister.
“The program has abused the contract not to attack other political parties or affect national security,” Mam Sonando said.
“My station welcomes all voices from political parties to have freedom of expression, not to attack or criticize someone,” he said.
“If the station continues to breach the contract, the station will shut down the program,” Mam Sonando said, adding that he has had to warn the show previously not to overstep its bounds.
The NRP issued a statement on Friday, expressing its disappointment over the suspension.
“Norodom Ranariddh Party cannot accept the suspension…. The reasons to suspend the program were groundless,” the statement said. “Should this station name itself independent and serve the people and the benefits of democracy? On the contrary, the station has limited itself and the freedom of information…. The suspension was politically motivated. The suspension shows that there is no freedom of media and expression.”
The statement also said that the Royalist Voices show is already forced to submit its material for approval two hours prior to airtime, at which point station authorities should have cut out anything they found problematic.
NRP spokesman Muth Channtha said Sunday that the program will continue to broadcast its critical opinions.
“[Mam Sonando] protected Prime Minister Hun Sen. It is unacceptable,” he said, adding that he believed Mam Sonando was pressured.
One week ago, the Ministry of Information suspended the NRP-affiliated newspaper Khmer Amatak for alleging that Funcinpec Secretary-General Nhiek Bun Chhay erased Prince Ranariddh’s name from a school building and replaced it with his own.
Koul Panha, director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, said that the lead-up to national elections is an important time for the public to hear the voices of all parties in order to make informed decisions when voting.
The station should have asked the show to issue a correction rather than resort to suspension, he said.
“It affects the NRP’s voice because it is election time…. It is a bad sign,” Koul Panha said.