Sonando Continues to Seek TV License, Radio Relay Station

Though the Ministry of Information has repeatedly rejected independent radio station owner Mam Sonando’s requests to obtain a television station license and a radio relay station, saying that there was “no space” for him, the government has approved at least three new TV licenses and 16 new radio relay stations since 2011, according to records on the ministry’s website.

Mr. Sonando, a frequent government critic, said Monday that he would be lodging yet another request with the ministry on Monday. He said he has filed annual requests with the Information Ministry for a relay station since 2005, and for a television license since 2010.

“I will demand a relay station and a new TV station license because the Ministry of Information must treat everybody equally,” he said Monday.

The TV license would be a first for Mr. Sonando, while he wants a relay station for his Beehive radio station to push his broadcasts further into the provinces.

The Information Ministry most recently turned down his requests on January 14, again citing the lack of frequency space on the nation’s airwaves.

When hundreds of his supporters staged a protest against the repeated rejections outside the Information Ministry last week, military police broke up the demonstration by force, lobbing smoke grenades and beating some of the participants and journalists with batons.

Mr. Sonando, who threw his support behind the opposition CNRP during last year’s national elections, believes the rejections are purely political.

“The Ministry of Information has repeatedly denied my requests for a relay station and a television station claiming not to have more frequency,” Mr. Sonando said. “But many new radio relay stations and new TV stations, such as BTV News and Hang Meas HDTV, have received licenses recently,” he said.

Government records confirm that Hang Meas and BTV—the latter owned by Prime Minister Hun Sen’s daughter, Hun Mana—were both licensed in the past three years. Business news outlet CNC, owned by businessman Kith Meng, who has close ties to Mr. Hun Sen, was also given a license since 2011.

CPP Information Minister Khieu Kanharith did not reply to a request for comment Monday. However, in an article by state news agency Agence Kampuchea Presse last week, Mr. Kanharith denied that his ministry had ignored Mr. Sonando’s requests for political reasons.

“H.E. Minister [Kanharith] said the ministry lacks frequencies and according to the law, TV license is granted only to private sector, not to political parties, and Beehive Radio used to announce its support to a political party,” AKP wrote.

Mr. Kanharith added Beehive Radio already has the highest antenna in Cambodia and the most powerful broadcasting capacity of any station except the national radio.

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