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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Government muzzles TV and radio

Government muzzles TV and radio

T HE Cambodian Government ordered both private and state-owned radio and television

not to publicize news of Son Sann's BLDP congress.

The International Broadcasting Corporation (IBC) television station was given a government-approved

script that mentioned the grenade attacks the night before the congress, and was

told to run it repeatedly and run nothing else.

One IBC staff member, who asked not to be named for fear of his safety, told the

Post: "An official from the Ministry of Information came to our news room and

told us not to cover anything of Son Sann's congress because the government did not

allow it," he said.

The statement read: "The government would like to inform the compatriots that

on Oct 30 at 17:50 and 18:30 there were two incidents of bombing at two places, with

one grenade exploding at Son Sann's premises and injuring many people.

"The Royal Government certifies that in the past the Son Sann party asked the

government not to deploy forces to defend his office.

"... the government did not send forces... because if it did it would seem that

the government was attempting to restrict the Son Sann congress.

"... after the incident, the government sent forces to intervene but this goodwill

was rejected by the Son Sann party.

"The Royal Government, in memory of reconciliation, would like to remind the

compatriots that a letter from... Prince Ranariddh... and Hun Sen... pointed out

that it was important to solve the internal problems first to find unity before [BLDP]

held another congress".

The statement also said the decision did not mean the government was restricting

the freedom of any party to meet, but the problem of the use of the party name had

not been resolved.

The publicized statement appealed to the BLDP factions to heal their rift and to

the public not to attend any kind of "meeting, congress or parade... to maintain

social order, safety and security for the people".

This is the evidence to show the very fair understanding of the government to obstruct

anarchy and to strengthen the internal security that is caused by opportunists who

provoke disturbance in order to blame the government, the statement says.

Staff at the station were angry: "It is absurd if we think about the democracy.

It caused our station to lose popularity and people are saying we are not independent,"

said one.

He said he had to follow the order because "it is inevitable". His "top

boss" had told him not to go against the government and to avoid involving himself

in politics that could affect the company. The government regularly censors its reports,

one staff member said.

"We have to follow [the government] because if we don't my company will lose

benefits".

"We are not happy that a big story had gone without passing our screen. People

were waiting to see the incident on IBC but there is nothing about it," said

an IBC staffer.

Pichai Chand Aium, general manger of IBC, said his business was a private TV station

so he had to stand independent.

"We should have the news for all (parties) such as Funcinpec, CPP and BLDP.

We should be neutral and stand among the three parties; we should not take sides,"

he said.

IBC was twice ordered not to cooperate with BLDP during the lead-up to the congress.

BLDP had requested the use of the station's meeting room for a seminar it intended

holding on Oct 2, but again the government ordered IBC not to comply, a copy of the

government order having been obtained by the Post.

In response to a question about the meeting room, Chand Aium said: "it is hard

to explain...no comment" and after thinking for a couple of minutes he added,

"anyhow we should be on the side of the government and consider its order".

One high ranking official who asked not to be named from Cambodian Television (TVK),

the state-owned station, said his reporters had not been sent to cover the bombing

of Son Sann's headquarters. He had simply missed the story.

"We are not like private media. We did not receive an order not to publicize

the news. Ieng Mouly did not say a word not to cover the news," he said. Nor

did the government order it to read the Information Ministry statement.

"They (the government) did not say anything. They just explained to us the incident

because if they ignore it they will be accused of being involved with the crime...,"

he said.

One high ranking official from the Cambodian National Radio said "we are the

government media so we follow the government order."

"I do not want to give any comment on the issue. I am a government official

so it is hard for me to say something about the government," he said.

Another one said he could not explain why he was ordered not to broadcast the news.

Though he declined to give any comment, he appeared to be disappointed at the order

and said, "Actually I have a lot of things to say but I can't".

He said it was a big story but his radio has the policy to focus reporting on development

and people.

Newspapers had a rather more "independent" field day on the news.

Publications known to be antagonistic toward the government - such

as The Voice of Khmer Youth, Khmer Conscience, New Liberty News and Wat Phnom News

- condemned the violence.

Khmer Conscience put out a special issue devoted entirely to the BLDP incident, saying

in a headline "The bomb exploded in the city is the step leading to dictatorship".

"What we have suspected is Mouly's and Hun Sen's words that warned people to

be careful of grenades during the congress," Khmer Conscience wrote.

"Perhaps nobody suspected the explosion was made by the Khmer Rouge; the suspicion

may be on the one who threatened before the congress," it said.

"How could investors come to Cambodia if the government fails to defend even

a thousand people?" it said.

In contrast, Koh Santepheap (Island of Peace), a pro-government paper, said in its

Oct. 3 issue that the bombing was planned by a politician - whom it did not identify

by name or party - in order to give the blame on the government.

It said Son Soubert was injured after he crashed into a chair - not from any shrapnel.

Except for seven bonafide BLDP supporters, the 40-plus other injured were villagers

collected from the provinces to get "gifts".

"[Son Sann supporter and MP] Pol Ham used four or five local newspapers to confuse

people to lose confidence in the government and give the Khmer Rouge opportunity,"

Koh Santepheap wrote.

"[MP] Kem Sohka criticizes the government and complains to diplomats not to

donate to Cambodia. Son Sann's saboteurs used all means to deceive people to come

to their congress," it said.

Reasmey Kampuchea, the most popular daily newspaper, and pro-government, had

not by the time the Post went to press reported anything of the incidents.

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