Cambodia: UN human rights wing concerned by media, civil society curbs

Elizabeth Throssell, OHCHR. Photo: UN Photo/ Violaine Martin

25 August 2017 – Measures in Cambodia, which left radio programmes and licences suspended, have sparked the United Nations human rights wing to call on the Government for political and civil rights guarantees.

“We are concerned by a rapid series of ministerial and administrative measures which have resulted in the suspension of radio programmes and licences, threatened a main English-language newspaper with closure, and shut down a foreign non-governmental organisation,” Liz Throssell, Spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, told reporters at today's regular press briefing.

“Ahead of next year's general election, we call on the Government to guarantee full political and civil rights, and media freedoms,” she added.

The National Democratic Institute (NDI), a foreign non-governmental organization (NGO), was shut down by ministerial order on 23 August, in the first such closure brought under the 2015 Law on Associations and Non-Governmental Organisations.

Noting that the organisation has been working on elections and with parties across the political spectrum, OHCHR pointed out that its international staff were given seven days to leave the country.

Earlier this month, three Cambodian organisations working on human rights and elections were also subjected to targeted tax investigations.

“We have concerns that NDI was closed without due process, and are worried about the overall deterioration of the environment for human rights defenders and civil society in Cambodia,” continued Ms. Throssell.

Moreover, the Government this week has revoked licences for some radio frequencies, thus blocking programmes aired by national independent human rights and media organisations, US-funded stations Radio Free Asia and Voice of America, and the main opposition party.

The OHCHR spokesperson said that the Cambodia Daily, one of the main independent English-language newspapers, was given until 4 September to pay an alleged $6.3 million in tax arrears, or be closed. While the paper has called for a transparent tax audit and the right to appeal, its requests have gone unheeded.

“We call on the Royal Government of Cambodia to ensure due process in all measures taken, including the right to appeal, and to respect the rights to freedom of association and expression,” concluded Ms. Throssell.


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