The management at the recently shuttered Voice of Democracy are looking for ways to negotiate with the government to reinstate its license, but Prime Minister Hun Sen insisted Friday that one of Cambodia’s last independent media outlets will not be allowed to reopen.
Instead, he urged them to apply for jobs in the government, saying they could do so without taking the required examination.
VOD was shut down Monday by Hun Sen after the outlet reported on Feb. 9 that the prime minister’s son, Hun Manet, had approved a government donation to support Turkey’s earthquake recovery efforts.
A government spokesperson dismissed claims that Hun Manet had overreached his authority and the prime minister demanded that VOD apologize for “publishing false claims.” Then on Monday morning Hun Sen ordered that its broadcast license be revoked for spreading “slanderous” information.”
VOD’s acting director Ith Sothoeut said Friday that managers were seeking ways to negotiate with the government “to make sure that VOD can continue its mission to provide the truth to people and the public in Cambodia,” he told Radio Free Asia.
Under Cambodia’s press law, VOD representatives could meet with the Ministry of Information to try to get the license reinstated, attorney Sok Sam Oeun told RFA. Only the courts can legally close down a media outlet, he said.
But Hun Sen on Friday wrote on his Facebook page that “there is no way VOD can be revived.”
Government jobs offered
Cambodia is scheduled to hold a general election on July 23. With no unbiased source of news left in the nation, the odds that Hun Sen will win another five-year term are even greater. VOD has reported widely on abuses of power and corruption in Cambodia for 20 years.
In his Facebook post on Friday, the prime minister said that eight former VOD staff members have applied to work for the government this week. He added that he has extended the deadline until the end of this month for the former staff members to apply for government jobs without taking the regular exam.
But former VOD reporter Suth Ban said he wasn’t impressed with the offer. He said that he can help the government more by being an independent reporter.
Another reporter, Kheang Sokmean, told RFA that he also wouldn’t apply for a government job, and he urged the government to restore VOD’s license.
“The people need news more than food,” he said.
Translated by Samean Yun. Edited by Matt Reed and Malcolm Foster.