The ruling party and the Cambodian Television Association (CTA) have reacted to the opposition’s accusations of bias in local televised media by claiming that the Cambodia National Rescue Party simply did not exercise its rights to buy advertising airtime.
The CNRP released a statement on Monday pointing out a number of issues it says impacted the fairness of the June 4 commune elections, including a biased media landscape. The statement noted that leading up to the election many private stations aired campaign advertisements exclusively for the Cambodian People’s Party.
“The action is a violation of the ethics of media, and the National Election Committee did not take action by postponing the broadcasting or disciplining,” the CNRP statement said. “On the contrary, the NEC allowed the opportunity for all media to broadcast freely until the last day of election campaign.”
The CPP and the CTA, the body that regulates television, both issued statements in response to the complaints, accusing the CNRP of causing public confusion. The government’s statement explained that private channels only broadcast ads that the CPP legally paid for.
“The Cambodian People’s Party would like to confirm that all private media have acted according to the law and ethical principles of the NEC. Television stations did not broadcast for [the CNRP] because [the CNRP] did not sign a contract to rent broadcasting,” the CPP statement read.
Similarly, the CTA called the CNRP’s accusations “a political statement twisting without taking responsibility”.
When reached yesterday, CNRP Deputy President Eng Chhay Eang declined to respond to the allegation that the CNRP never tried to buy airtime.
“It is not whether we contact or not. We can see when campaigning what things are broadcasted. We do not need to respond because the public can see,” Chhay Eang said.
Whether or not the stations would show opposition advertising, political analyst Meas Ny questioned the independence of television coverage of the campaign.
“Private television that is sponsored or supported by a tycoon has also been on the side of the government,” Ny said, explaining that private channels almost never broadcast CNRP events or positive news about the opposition in general. “All are controlled by the government . . . [and] by the CPP.”
Prime Minister Hun Sen’s daughter owns popular station Bayon TV, while government-affiliated business tycoon Kith Meng owns CNC and CTN.
The CNRP has tried to create its own broadcasting channel, but has been repeatedly thwarted by what it has called political interference. Ny, however, said he doubted whether a CNRP channel would solve the problem of independence in media.
“Would it be true and neutral or just become a tool for CNRP media?” he asked.
He added that the government’s monopolising of television news had in any case rendered the medium less effective, encouraging the public to turn to alternate news sources like social media. “When the people don’t trust, they don’t watch”, Ny said.
National Election Committee spokesman Hang Puthea declined to comment on the CNRP’s complaint yesterday.