August 30, 2017

Is free speech under attack in Cambodia?

With radio stations shuttered and a newspaper threatened, critics say the government is cracking down.

"All the news without fear or favor". That's the slogan of The Cambodia Daily. But a huge tax bill from the government has the newspaper's editorial staff fearing the well-respected publication's fate.

"The Daily is facing a dire future," Jodie DeJonge, editor-in-chief of the English language paper, told The Stream, adding that it will close if it can't come up with the $6.4 million authorities say is owed.

DeJonge disputes the claim and says the government is simply trying to silence criticism before a 2018 general election. The Daily is one of a handful of news outlets in which opposition politicians are featured.

It isn't just The Cambodia Daily that's threatened. Authorities shut down an American NGO and ordered its foreign staff to leave the country. And at least a dozen radio stations have suspended programming under threat of losing their licenses.

The government says the organisations have broken the law. But opponents see the moves as an attempt by Prime Minister Hun Sen to extend his power ahead of the election.

So what's next? And will there be space for dissent as the election nears?

Joining The Stream: 

Jodie DeJonge @jdejonge
Editor in Chief, Cambodia Daily

Virak Ou @ouvirak
Founder & president, Future Forum

Mu Sochua @MuSochua
Vice president, Cambodia National Rescue Party

Vannak Huy @VannakHuy
Undersecretary of State, Ministry of Interior

What do you think? Share your views in the comment section below.