Prime Minister Hun Sen has given local media outlet VOD 24 hours to issue a public apology, or have its licence revoked, for publishing an “intentionally slanderous” article regarding Cambodia’s recent relief assistance to quake-hit Turkey.
The article published by VOD, which also produces radio programmes, centred around the signing of a government decision to donate $100,000 to Turkey following a massive earthquake, which has claimed at least 28,000 lives in the country and its neighbour Syria as of the afternoon of February 12, according to UN relief chief Martin Griffiths, who predicts that the death toll will "double or more".
The article alleged that Lieutenant General Hun Manet – deputy commander-in-chief of the Royal Cambodia Armed Forces (RCAF) and future prime ministerial candidate for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) – had signed on the decision on behalf of his father Hun Sen.
“I’ve decided to set a new ultimatum to just 24 hours for VOD to issue a public apology. I’ve ordered the Ministry of Information to revoke VOD’s licence if it does not issue an apology by 10am on February 13,” Hun Sen warned, in response to a comment by former VOD reporter Min Pov on his official Facebook page.
The premier had previously given VOD 72 hours to verify facts with the information ministry, and to apologise to Manet and the government if its report was proved to be false.
Hun Sen said the article “distorted” facts regarding the government’s budget management system, stressing that only the prime minister has the authority to make a decision on humanitarian aid to a foreign country.
As of the afternoon of February 12, VOD had not retracted the article.
Ith Sothoeuth, media director of the Cambodian Centre for Independent Media (CCIM) which oversees VOD, said the outlet’s team is working on the case.
“I cannot give an answer now as we are studying the case, collecting more information and discussing how to respond,” he said.