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National radio snubs opposition lawmaker

Opposition Sam Rainsy Party politician Mu Sochua was bumped from a national radio broadcast about women’s empowerment on Saturday because she is a member of the opposition and had no ruling-party counterpart to air an opposing viewpoint.

Sochua said that despite numerous Cambodian People’s Party members speaking on the station in recent weeks without any comment from the opposition, AM 918 had invoked a government directive on media balance to gag her.

Station director Bou Vannarith told her 30 minutes before the scheduled broadcast of Women’s Voices, Women’s Choices  that she would not be able to speak because no CPP member was due to talk as well, Sochua said yesterday.

“We listen to CPP members all the time. If you want to implement this policy against me, you have to implement it every time,” she said.

“In the end, he [Vannarith] had nothing to say, so I gave him a lecture for a whole hour.”

Sochua said she had intended to speak about women’s roles outside of the household and opportunities for them to participate in politics.

Vannarith defended the station’s position, arguing that as a government broadcaster, AM 918 could not be biased and did not discriminate.

“I told her [Sochua] that she can talk next time when there will be a representative of the government attending for the talk. We need to have balanced voices,” he said.  

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said he wished the opposition would engage with the government in constructive debates.

“They always accuse, bring hatred and provocative stuff, I wish they would bring more organised talks about democracy.”

Koul Panha, executive director of the election monitoring group Comfrel, said the gagging of Sochua was more evidence of the systematic restrictions placed on the opposition’s access to fair media coverage.

“I think the program organisers always want to have balance, but it’s not easy to invite CPP politicians; they are afraid of their leader. This is why it creates difficulty in informing people.”

To contact the reporter on this story: David Boyle at david.boyle@phnompenhpost.com

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