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Confusion in media politics

SEVEN newspapers have split from the League of Cambodian Journalists (LCJ) to form

the Neutral Khmer Journalists Association (NKJA) - as if the internal politics of

the Kingdom's media wasn't confusing enough.

The LCJ itself was formed following a split from the founding body, the Khmer Journalists

Association (KJA).

The most recent mutiny was led by Neak Norm Sar Thmei (New Emissary News) director

Chea Satra, who said he in particular had become fed up with the LCJ. "I want

to separate from the league to show the public that we're truly neutral," Satra

said. When asked if the LCJ - which is close to Second Premier Hun Sen - was not

neutral, he said "people know which way the league is now walking."

Also joining the new camp is Khieu Seng Kim - the brother of nominal Khmer Rouge

leader Khieu Samphan - who is the editor of Kamlaing Thmei (New Force News) newspaper.

Satra said that Kim was considered the president of the NKJA. He said that being

a member of the LCJ's ethics council was a waste of time as he was not given any

responsibility.

He complained that the league, which like the KJA receives Asia Foundation fudning,

did not give money to help his newspaper out of financial difficulty.

Neak Norm Sar Thmei is printed weekly with a circulation from 1,500-2,000 copies

per edition. Satra said that revenue from the paper sales could hardly meet payment

of salaries for his 10 staff.

LCJ's President Chum Kanal explained that Asia Foundation money is spent on administration,

not to finance individual members.

"It is their right to form any group they want," Kanal said.

"This is not internal rift [of LCJ] but there are politicians giving them money

to form the association to counter the league," he claimed, refusing to elaborate.

Satra denied that he was receiving cash from any political party. He said that the

NKJA would be able to survive on its members' contributions.

"My newspaper is poor but because of my affection to the profession I try to

keep it running," he said, adding that he would accept outside donations, but

not political favors.

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