Cambodian officials have praised President Donald Trump’s criticism of American media and used this as an example of how they can also deal with local reporters.
During an event in the capital Phnom Penh, Prime Minister Hun Sen warned reporters not to do stories that could pose a threat to “peace and stability.”
“Donald Trump understands that they are an anarchic group,” said Hun Sen, referring to journalists, according to Reuters news agency. Reuters said the comments also appeared on Hun Sen’s official Facebook page.
According to Cambodian independent newspaper Phnom Penh Post, Hun Sen’s comments came during a speech to celebrate the country’s National Clean City Day.
“We respect rights, not the rights of anarchy, [but rather] the rights of the rule of law,” the Cambodian leader was quoted as saying. “Now, in the United Sates itself, CNN and some others could not get into the White House because Donald Trump sees them as causing anarchy,” he added.
Last week, White House officials barred some news organizations from attending an informal press gathering with Trump’s press secretary, Sean Spicer. Among those not allowed in were the New York Times and CNN – both frequent targets of Trump’s criticism.
Trump has repeatedly called press coverage he does not agree with "fake news." He has also described journalists as "the enemy of the people."
White House officials argued they were not trying to shut out certain media from the gathering, but were just trying to include more reporters. However, the action was condemned by many media outlets, which called it an insult to democratic ideals.
Hun Sen’s statements followed strong criticism of the media last weekend by Cambodian government cabinet spokesman Phay Siphan. In a Facebook post Saturday, he also referred to the White House decision to exclude some media. He said it sent a "clear message" that some reporting "does not reflect reality."
“President Donald Trump thinks that the news reported by these organizations did not reflect the truth, which is the responsibility of the professional reporters," the spokesman said. “This means that freedom of expression must respect the law and the authority of the state.”
Phay Siphan said the government may decide to "take action" against some media outlets if they are found to be threats to the country's peace and stability. While Cambodia's constitution provides for a free press, most media are indirectly controlled by the state and closely monitored.
In his Facebook post, Phay Siphan specifically took aim at Voice of America (VOA) and Radio Free Asia (RFA), as well as the local Voice of Democracy, an independent, not-for-profit radio station. He accused the broadcasters of being "foreign agents." He said they must "reconsider" their use of airtime before the government takes unspecified actions.
In a statement, Jing Zhang, the acting director of VOA's East Asia Pacific division, rejected those descriptions. “VOA is a media organization that reports news in an objective, fair and balanced manner," he said. "Millions of VOA listeners and Facebook fans in Cambodia can attest to our journalistic integrity."
The Phnom Penh Post contacted Phay Siphan to get clarification of his comments. He responded by saying that any media outlet that doesn't follow the government's orders would be expelled.
"Shut it down. Very simple. Expel them," he said.
I’m Kelly Jean Kelly.
Words in This Story
fake – adj. not true or real
exclude – v. keep something or someone out
objective – adj. based on facts rather than feelings or opinions
integrity – n. honesty, knowing what is morally right or wrong
expel – v. officially force something or someone to leave a place or organization