The Ministry of Information has officially revoked the licence of online news outlet VOD, which was overseen by the Cambodian Centre for Independent Media (CCIM), for “gross professional misconduct” in relation to their recent reporting on the Kingdom’s disaster relief to quake-hit Turkiye.

The ministry said in its announcement on the morning of February 13, hours after Prime Minister Hun Sen issued an order to this effect, that their “intentionally slanderous” report and failure to run corrections in accordance with the press law has tarnished the reputation of the government.

Hun Sen last gave VOD 24 hours on February 12 to issue a public apology, but eventually made the revocation order after rejecting its letter expressing “regret” for confusions caused by the article and requesting tolerance later that day. He said the word “regret” used in the letter did not amount to an apology.

In the early hours of February 13, VOD published another letter on its official Facebook page, this time with an apology, a move deemed by the premier as “too little too late”.

“Why didn’t you issue an apology earlier [on February 12] instead of doing so past midnight? You cared more about your image and dared not make an apology until after getting a slap on your face,” he said in reference to his last order to revoke its licence.

“As the prime minister, my decision is now final,” he said.

VOD, which published in both Khmer and English and also produced radio programmes, claimed in its report that Hun Manet – deputy commander-in-chief of the Royal Cambodia Armed Forces and future prime ministerial candidate for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) – had signed off on a government decision to send $100,000 in aid to Turkiye (formerly spelled Turkey) on behalf of his father Hun Sen.

Both Manet and the government had asked VOD to show proof of the signing on the document, with Hun Sen first giving the media outlet 72 hours to verify the information with the information ministry, and to make a correction if the report was found to be false.