Biased election coverage is under fire in a new study from the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia that found that 71 per cent of political activities aired on evening Cambodian TV over a month-long period showed a rosy picture of the ruling party.
Images of Cambodian Peoples Party members back slapping, hand shaking and ribbon cutting were partnered with routine blastings of the opposition Sam Rainsy Party on the TVK, Bayon and CTN television networks.
In the period from September 1 to October 20, the SRP was afforded just 20 per cent of political coverage on TV between 5 pm and 11 pm, largely with what COMFREL executive director Koul Panha said was less-than-sympathetic analysis.
“I think that there is a lack of equity in broadcasts [about] the … activities of the political parties on the television and radio stations, which will not ensure free and fair elections,” she said yesterday.
The study also found that the SRP fared better on the radio, receiving 35 per cent of coverage – though even this was focused largely on their alleged political misconduct - while the struggling Human Rights Party, with no seats in the Senate, enjoyed 9 per cent of TV coverage and nothing on the radio.
But Tep Nytha, secretary general of the National Election Committee, defended the media’s right to broadcast what they want.
“It is the right of media to broadcast if it is not in the period of an election campaign,” he said, adding that the period for the next Senate election was scheduled for January 7 to 27.
Yim Sovann, spokesman for the SRP, which holds just two seats in the senate but 26 in the National Assembly, took a different view, stating that entrenched ruling party bias extended to the newspaper business as well.
“Even if TV and radio station owners wished to have equality in programming, they would not, because of the intimidation by the ruling party,” he said.
Perhaps more revealing than any of the per centages was the total time spent covering political matters – less than five hours on three TV networks over a month and a half period.