Agriculture Ministry Alleges VOD Distorted Statement for Political Agenda

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New Agriculture Minister Dith Tina, in a photo posted to his Facebook page on February 10, 2021.
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The Agriculture Ministry has accused VOD of “perhaps maliciously” distorting a ministry press release, saying the publication could be perceived as having a “politically driven agenda.”

The ministry released an English-language statement late Wednesday pointing to three articles published by VOD English from November 17 to 24, alleging that the publication distorted the contents of a November 15 ministry press release where the ministry warned farmers against posting critiques of government inaction on rice prices.

The ministry calls this article factually incorrect because it was only appealing to “social media users to refrain from disseminating false information claiming that the Ministry ignores the issues and does not provide any solution.”

In an article about the detention of a civil servant for criticizing the same policy, the ministry alleges VOD misinformed the public by classifying the authorities’ questioning of the civil servant as detention. The official was allowed to return to duty after explaining the reason for his “obscene insult” and giving a public apology, the ministry said.

In a third article, VOD “intentionally, and perhaps maliciously, rephrased the two previous inaccurate statements,” it said.

The ministry accused VOD of lacking professionalism and ethics and “publishing recklessly.”

“Any such inaccurate reporting could be perceived as a premeditate attempt to mislead the public to serve VOD’s politically driven agenda, which is de facto a violation of the Cambodian Press Law,” the statement reads.

Three sections of the three articles cited by the ministry include:

“The Ministry of Agriculture has asked farmers in Battambang and Banteay Meanchey to refrain from criticizing the ministry for low crop prices.”

“Last week, the Agriculture Ministry made a similar threat to farmers who criticized the government over the market price of rice.”

“The Ministry of Agriculture has warned farmers in Battambang and Banteay Meanchey to refrain from criticizing the government. … The Banteay Meanchey police also detained … a civil servant in Svay Chek district who criticized the government over low rice price.”

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