President Donald Trump’s attacks on the US media have sent shivers through the public at home, but in at least one other country, government officials are imitating Trump’s aggressive stance toward the journalism.
Phay Siphan, as spokesman for Cambodia’s Council of Ministers, the country’s executive branch, wrote on Facebook this weekend that the government would “crush” media outlets that posed a danger to the country’s “peace and stability.”
Siphan’s threats invoked Trump’s posture toward the US press as justification, according to The Phnom Penh Post.
“Donald Trump’s ban of international media giants … sends a clear message that President Trump sees that news published by those media institutions does not reflect the real situation,” Shiphan wrote.
While Trump has not banned any outlets, his campaign did deny credentials to several outlets during the presidential election. More recently, his administration excluded several outlets, including the BBC, from a press gaggle that took place at the White House.
“Freedom of expression must be located within the domain of the law and take into consideration national interests and peace,” Siphan wrote, according to The Post. “The president’s decision has nothing to do with democracy or freedom of expression.”
When asked by phone about his comments, Siphan was insistent, saying his remarks were a “warning to return to professionalism and responsibility.”
“We wish to see diversity of ideas, but we are one nation and must be all together,” he told The Post. When asked what would happen to outlets that did not follow his admonishment, Siphan said, “Shut it down, very simple. Expel them.”
A spokesman for the Cambodian Ministry of Information echoed Siphan’s warnings, saying, “Any article or writing that leads to destabilization might face these consequences.”
Siphan specifically mentioned Voice of America and Radio Free Asia, both of which receive funding from the US government, in his Facebook post.
His invocation of Trump’s attacks on the media coupled with his reference to VoA and RFA lend a recursive element to the situation.
In the early days of his administration, it was feared that Trump would exercise undue influence over Broadcasting Board of Governors, which has an $800 million annual budget and oversees Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, Radio Free Asia, and the Middle East Broadcast Networks.
Those concerns were heightened when VoA deleted one of several tweets that seemed to endorse comments about the size of the crowd at Trump’s inauguration that were made by press secretary Sean Spicer and widely acknowledged as false.
Days later, however, the Voice of America director, Amanda Bennett, assured The Washington Post that the Trump administration would not manipulate the broadcaster.