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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - CPP money denied by new journo group

CPP money denied by new journo group

T HE League of Cambodian Journalists (LCJ), started by a group of primarily

pro-government newspapers, says it will accept political parties' donations as

long as there are no strings attached.

But LCJ president Chum Kanal has

denied widespread rumors that the CPP has already pledged money.

Kanal

early this month led a breakaway group of newspapers from the Khmer Journalists

Association (KJA) to form the LCJ.

The new group's provisional management

committee comprises Kanal, who writes for Koh Santepheap, the editor of
Rasmei Kampuchea, two Cambodia Times staff and the editor of the

Interior Ministry's magazine.

The league has proclaimed itself to be a

"neutral, independent" association of journalists.

Asked whether the LCJ

would seek funding from political parties, Kanal said: "As president of the

league, I would like to declare that I will accept all money that is given me

freely, [without] pressure or conditions."

Asked whether some of his

members had met CPP officials at the house of party leader and Second Prime

Minister Hun Sen the day the LCJ was formed, Kanal said rumors of that were not

true. The Post's interview with Kanal was then abruptly terminated by LCJ

vice-president Ouk Kimseng, of the Cambodia Times.

The LCJ claims

a membership of 32 publications, radio and television stations, though the KJA

questions that. Both organizations claim the membership of government-owned

media such as Kampuchea newspaper and the AKP news agency.

But at

least eight LCJ members are confirmed defectors from the KJA, and another five

unaligned newspapers were among the first to join the LCJ.

The drama

began on Friday June 2 at a meeting of the KJA's ethics committee when Kanal,

the committee chairman, announced his resignation for "personal reasons". The

next morning, Kanal's Koh Santepheap reported that he had resigned

because of KJA management "irregularities" and that he would form the

LCJ.

KJA president Pin Samkhon maintains that, as of Saturday morning,

most of his members had expressed loyalty to the KJA. But by that night, some

seven more newspapers had left.

He said he believed there was "pressure"

for some newspapers to leave, but would not elaborate.

Since then, LCJ

members have published repeated attacks on the KJA and Samkhon alleging

financial irregularities. The KJA has about $350,000 of funding over two years

from USAid. The money is administered by the Asia Foundation.

Samkhon has

since asked the foundation to get an independent audit of the KJA to settle the

allegations.

Asia Foundation resident representative, Jim Klein, said the

KJA's funding was subject to strict financial reporting. Much of the money was

administered directly by the foundation, and the rest paid to the KJA on a

three-month basis. "Nobody got a wheelbarrow full of money that they don't have

to account for," said Klein.

The LCJ's establishment follows

long-standing sniping at Pin Samkhon from some quarters, and internal KJA

disagreements over newspapers which are prosecuted by the

government.

Samkhon has previously acknowledged that the KJA's membership

included journalists who believe that "if you write something bad, you must go

to jail". He said last week that some of those who had left the KJA did not

understand his support for newspapers which ran into trouble from the

government.

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