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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - UN blasts CPP's domination of state-run media

UN blasts CPP's domination of state-run media

A NEW United Nations report has confirmed how skewed Cambodia's local media coverage

is toward the Cambodian People's Party (CPP).

UN researchers monitored the main newscasts during May on National Radio of Cambodia

and television stations TVK, which is state-owned, TV3, owned by the Phnom Penh municipality

and TV5, owned by the Defense Ministry and Thai interests.

CPP officials featured 448 times. Second Prime Minister Hun Sen alone was featured

170 times and party president Chea Sim appeared 36 times, one more than King Norodom

Sihanouk's 35 appearances.

Members of First Prime Minister Ung Huot's Reastr Niyum party - which is seen as

close to the CPP - featured 91 times.

In contrast, the opposition Funcinpec and Sam Rainsy parties were mentioned just

14 times between them. All were negative portrayals except those including the King.

The Post also has anecdotal evidence since the June 25 start of the month-long campaign

period that state-media newscasts remain barely-disguised platforms for CPP electioneering.

TVK aired a report of Second Prime Minister Hun Sen's visit to dig a well in Kampong

Speu on June 26, in which he was asked: "Why are you not joining in campaigning?"

Hun Sen replied that as prime minister he was responsible for maintaining security

and order and that he did not want to be "both a referee and a player".

Two days later, TV3 ran a prime-time entertainment show called "Test Your Ability"

during which frequent appeals were made to the audience and participants to vote

for CPP.

"You will have positions, schools, roads... Thevada [the CPP's goddess logo]

will help you," the announcer said.

Conditions for access to the electronic media were far from fair, said the report's

author, the UN special representative for human rights, Thomas Hammarberg.

Although political parties have been given five-minute slots on state-owned radio

and TV during the current one-month campaign, this could not correct the previous

imbalance, he said.

This imbalance was because media licenses were invariably granted on a politically

partial basis, he said. Before the July, 1997, rupture between Hun Sen and Prince

Norodom Ranariddh, both had colluded in blocking media access to other parties.

Currently, 11 of the 12 radio stations are pro-CPP. All six TV stations are directly

or indirectly controlled by the CPP.

The report quoted Secretary of State for Information Khieu Kanharith saying that

there were no available radio frequencies, pending a planned expansion of the national

radio network in 2000.

However, the UN report said: "there are large numbers of vacant frequencies

on both FM and AM bands".

The report revealed another imbalance: "News about opposition politicians and

their views are virtually excluded from the media to an extent which cannot be justified

by arguments about different news values."

Hammarberg called for program producers to ensure "full and fair" coverage

for all politicians.

Electronic news usually followed a hierarchical protocol: the King first, Chea Sim

next, then Ung Huot and Hun Sen.

Hammarberg said that private TV stations Bayon and Apsara usually omit Ung Huot altogether.

"A disproportionate time is spent on Hun Sen and his party allies," Hammarberg

said. "When Hun Sen ended his self-imposed silence after the death of his mother

in late April, all six TV stations and most radio stations covered his two-hour speech

live."

Hun Sen's new plan to fight poverty attracted a "steady stream of announcements",

including the screening of concerts where famous singers and comedians offer praise

to the CPP, he said.

On June 19, Hun Sen made a campaign speech so lengthy that some TV and radio stations

had to cancel their regular news bulletins to show it, he said.

Hammarberg said that by comparison, campaign speeches by leading opposition members

were never covered.

Local news producers, for instance, argued that Ranariddh's return from exile on

March 30 was not an occasion they considered newsworthy. It was noted that CNN led

its international coverage of the day with the story.

TV and radio were also used to inhibit opposition activities, he said. "In the

days before the June 21 demonstration organized by Rainsy, state and private TV and

radio repeatedly... discouraged the public from attending."

The report noted that Funcinpec's own radio station (FM90) had been looted and closed

last July.

Funcinpec plans to begin a smaller station are unlikely to be realized before the

elections.

Similarly, Funcinpec's TV9 had $1 million worth of equipment stolen last July and

now operates under self-censorship. Staff told UN researchers that TV9 has never

refused a request by TVK to broadcast pro-CPP news.

Sam Rainsy has five times been refused permission to run a radio station, Hammarberg

said.

 

 

NUMBER OF APPEARANCES ON STATE RUN MEDIA

 

NAME

TVK

TV5

TV3

Nat.

Radio

Total

PARTY
Hun Sen

60

22

19

69

170

CPP
Ung Huot

29

9

9

21

68

Reastr Niyum
Chea Sim

22

2

1

11

36

CPP
King Sihanouk

28

 

 

7

35

 
Cham Prasith

11

3

8

1

23

CPP
Sok An

10

2

5

4

21

CPP
Queen Monineath

14

 

1

5

20

 
King & Queen

17

 

 

 

17

 
Chea Sophara

 

2

8

5

15

CPP
Hun Sen/Ung Huot

3

2

1

4

10

CPP/Reastr Niyum
Sar Kheng

4

 

1

1

6

CPP
Ieng Mouly

8

 

 

1

9

Buddhist Liberal Party
Sam Rainsy

2

 

 

3

5

Sam Rainsy Party
Prince Ranariddh

3

 

 

2

5

Funcinpec
Ted Ngoy

 

 

 

4

4

Free Republican Development Party
Ngoun Soeur

 

 

 

1

1

Khmer Citizen's Party
Son Soubert

 

 

 

 

0

Son Sann Party

 

0

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