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Cambodia Reverses Ban on Foreign Media Reports

Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen and his wife Bun Rany (R) arrive at an election campaign area in Phnom Penh, June 27, 2013.
Cambodia has quickly reversed an order barring local radio stations from broadcasting foreign news programs before July's general election, following protests from broadcasters, the public and the United States.

The Cambodian Information Ministry late last week banned local radio stations from broadcasting content from foreign news media for 31 days prior to the July 28 election, in which Prime Minister Hun Sen will seek to extend his hold on power. The directive also ordered stations to stop carrying reports on foreigners playing any role in the campaign.

However, the Information Ministry issued a statement late Saturday saying it would allow local stations to resume airing foreign-produced programs as usual.

Among others, the restrictions would have affected U.S.-funded Voice of America and Radio Free Asia.

A U.S. State Department spokesman had called the directive a serious infringement of press freedom and said it called into question whether the vote will be free and fair. VOA Executive Editor Steve Redisch said reliable, accurate and balanced news and information are crucially important ahead of elections.

VOA and RFA programs are re-broadcast by many FM stations in Cambodia.

Cambodia's Hun Sen is one of the longest-serving prime ministers in the world - in power since 1985, through a series of coalition governments. He is expected to win the July 28 election.