Beehive Radio no longer has permission to broadcast Voice of America and Radio Free Asia programming, and the station must stop broadcasting the US-based programs, Ministry of Information Secretary of State Khieu Kanharith said Monday.
Khieu Kanharith said the ministry had only granted permission last month for the programs to be aired during the election period and that Beehive required permission from the ministry to broadcast programs from overseas.
The warning came on the second day of the Ministry of Information’s 30-day suspension of a newspaper, the Voice of Khmer Youth, for publishing statements on Friday interpreted as offensive to the royal family.
The incidents have highlighted differences between Khieu Kanharith and Funcinpec officials at the ministry, including Minister of Information Lu Laysreng, on how to reprimand media that they say have acted inappropriately or illegally.
Son Soubert, a member of the Constitutional Council, said there is no law requiring Beehive to have permission to broadcast programming from overseas.
“Even TVK uses information from overseas stations,” he said Monday. “The prohibition is an abuse of the Constitution.”
Khieu Kanharith admitted that there was no law supporting his decision, but said he must prevent Cambodia from becoming a media battleground for foreign nations.
“If the ministry offers permission to VOA and RFA, then Muslim and Chinese governments will also want to establish stations here in Cambodia.”
Beehive’s founder Mam Sonando said he wouldn’t follow the warning and was waiting for a formal letter from the ministry. He added that he would obey an order from Lu Laysreng.
Khieu Kanharith said he is “very busy right now,” and would write the letter to Beehive “when I am free.”
Lu Laysreng said he would wait for Khieu Kanharith’s statement before commenting. “The Beehive radio station has to obey my order, not my secretary of state’s order,” he said.
On Friday, the Ministry of Information ordered a 30-day suspension of the Voice of Khmer Youth, an opposition newspaper, for reporting that Queen Norodom Monineath and her son, Prince Norodom Sihamoni, had met frequently with Prime Minister Hun Sen at his house.
The Royal Palace said the article was “completely wrong,” and requested that the ministry make the suspension.
Editor-in-chief Keo Sothea wrote a letter, dated Saturday, apologizing to King Norodom Sihanouk and requesting to resume publication.
He wrote that he realized the article “seriously affected you [the King] and the Queen, for which I can’t be pardoned.” But he noted that the newspaper ran a full correction on Saturday.
Palace officials said Monday they were unaware of the letter.
Norbert Klein, adviser to the director at Open Forum, said the newspaper’s article could be construed as a violation of the Constitution, which states that the king is “inviolable.”
“It is up to interpretation whether it’s the person of the king or the monarchy” which cannot be maligned, he said.
Klein also noted it has been standard practice for the Ministry of Information to order suspensions of publications without first going through the courts.
Funcinpec officials at the Ministry of Information declined to comment Monday on the suspension.
Khieu Kanharith said on Monday that the ministry should have gone through the courts before suspending Voice of Khmer Youth.
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