Sonando Fans to Stage Protest for TV License

Mam Sonando, owner of the popular Beehive Radio station, and his supporters will defy a government ban on public gatherings and start daily protests against the Ministry of Information’s rejection of Mr. Sonando’s request for a relay station and a TV station, Mr. Sonando’s assistant said Wednesday.

“It doesn’t matter if we will be allowed to stage rallies or not…we will keep going with our schedule to stage rallies and protest in front of the Ministry of Information,” Huon Pannary said Wednesday. She said the group would begin protesting on January 27.

Mr. Sonando first asked for a relay station to broadcast deeper into the provinces and a TV license in 2005, Ms. Pannary said, but the ministry has consistently refused to grant either request and on Tuesday rejected his latest requests, citing “no space” as the reason.

“We are not surprised over the Ministry of Information’s repeated refusal…because they are scared that we will show the reality and what’s happening in this society,” Ms. Pannary said, adding that several other TV and radio stations had begun broadcasting since Mr. Sonando’s request was first rejected nine years ago.

Mr. Sonando, an outspoken government critic, was sentenced to 20 years in jail in 2012 on charges of creating an alleged secessionist movement. Rights groups said the charges were spurious, and after international outcry, his sentence was suspended and he was released last year.

Moeun Chhean Nariddh, director of the Cambodian Institute for Media Studies, said that the ministry’s justification for denying the licenses—that there is not enough space on the frequency spectrum—was an excuse.

Civil society groups and individuals not affiliated with the ruling CPP have repeatedly asked for broadcast licenses, but have always seen their requests rejected, while the party’s supporters have been granted them, Mr. Chhean Nariddh said.

“The government has used the ‘no space’ reason to reply to any request to start a radio or TV station in Cambodia. The space has no limits, so they could have as many [radio and TV] stations as they would like to have,” he said.

City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche said that Mr. Sonando’s request to protest, submitted on Tuesday, had not yet been forwarded to Phnom Penh governor Pa Socheatvong. Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith did not respond to a request for comment.

© 2014, The Cambodia Daily. All rights reserved No part of this article may be reproduced in print, electronically, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without written permission.