World Press Freedom Canada (WPFC) is urging the Government of Canada and the international Media Freedom Coalition to take a strong stand condemning the Cambodian government’s shut-down of an important independent media outlet.
Following orders from Prime Minister Hun Sen, the government revoked the licence for Voice of Democracy (VOD) on Monday with access to VOD’s Khmer and English language services, forcing all broadcasts off the air, NPR reported on Monday.
“Going after VOD is a good indication that the scheduled July 23 poll will be neither free nor fair,” said Human Rights Watch Deputy Asia Director Phil Robertson in a statement.
An independent and vigorous media is an essential component of a healthy society and a cornerstone of democracy. “We would hope Cambodia can be persuaded to reverse course and allow Voice of Democracy to continue operating, especially ahead of the upcoming national elections,” said WPFC President Heather Bakken.
WPFC is calling on Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly to rally support within the Media Freedom Coalition (MFC) to engage with Cambodia and stand up for press freedom.
The MFC members utilize their diplomatic missions to protect and promote media freedom in collaboration with journalists and civil society in various countries. The international group, which is co-chaired by Canada and the Netherlands, issued statements last year condemning media restrictions in Russia, Afghanistan, Venezuela, Iran and Hong Kong.
WPFC urges the Media Freedom Coalition to use the various levers at its disposal to encourage the Cambodian government to protect press freedom and the rights of journalists to pursue stories, even when discomfiting for the ruling party.