THE man slated to head the European Union's election media unit has become embroiled
already in controversy.
Political consultant, author and academic Raoul Jennar - in an article dated 16 January
posted to an Internet Web site - argues that Prince Norodom Ranariddh is "indisputably"
guilty of at least one of the four charges leveled against him by Hun Sen.
The article - complete with Jennar's photo and byline - reappeared in the Jan 23
edition of the Rasmei Kampuchea newspaper. The paper is Cambodia's most widely read
and considered - even by Jennar himself - to be pro-CPP.
Jennar went on to say that Ranariddh violated both the Constitution and the law by
negotiating directly with Anlong Veng. He repeated this opinion in a subsequent interview
with the Phnom Penh Post.
He conceded that the remaining charges against the Prince should be decided by the
"independent Cambodian judiciary".
Jennar also attacked "one-sided American journalists" and reiterated his
opinion that the United States failed to oust Second Prime Minister Hun Sen in 1993
and "want to punish him for surviving" last July's fighting.
Jennar has "the green light", but as yet no formal agreement till probably
late next month, to head the media component of the EU's electoral project.
Jennar will lead the short-term $130,000 project, beginning March and lasting till
at least a month after the July 26 election date, to provide legal and professional
training and a resource center for local journalists, "to ensure significant
and valid coverage of all opinions". The media component is also charged with
ensuring a "high profile coverage" by both local and international press,
and to provide local journalists with legal help through a "hot line" or,
if necessary, through the courts.
Critics are angry that Jennar has demonstrated, they say, political bias coming into
a job that should demand absolute neutrality. Jennar denies any suggestion that he
has shown a CPP bias.
"Is [Jennar's article] representative of official EU policy?" asked one
critic. "What sort of elections are the EU bringing here? Is Funcinpec going
to be happy with someone like Jennar in charge of training local journalists to cover
One European donor, who has long been involved in the electoral process, said: "Jennar
rewrites history so the victim becomes the culprit and the culprit becomes the victim.
If someone as biased as him is appointed program manager, that means the EU itself
He continued: "Raoul Jennar should have disqualified himself from the job."
Jennar told the Post that Rasmei Kampuchea did not ask his permission to run the
piece and that "this is the way the press works in this country. There is no
respect for ethics."
However, he conceded that the article was effectively published once it appeared
on the Net, and that the paper had the right to uplift it.
He said that he was not embarrassed that it subsequently appeared for wider, local
"I take responsibility for the report," he said.
Post: "But you say that [one of the charges] against Ranariddh is indisputable.
That's very political, and now it has been published in Cambodia's most popular newspaper..."
Jennar: "Yeah, but that's not my responsibility."
Post: "But when you start talking about the politics of who's right and who's
wrong, and it's published in a Cambodian newspaper, don't you think there's valid
criticism that you, as incoming head of the EU's media unit, should be neutral, that
you shouldn't have got into a political arguement?"
Jennar: "Maybe these are two different issues but I don't see a problem making
comment on press issues...
Post: "And political issues?"
Jennar: "... and political issues. When my contract starts with the EU and [if]
I see a provision which may prevent me from making comments on political issues -
but so far this is my life, to work as a political analyst, which I've been doing
for more than ten years."
He said while he'd like to be free to make political comment about Cambodia, he saw
the EU job as an opportunity to help the Kingdom. "[If] The EU gives me this
opportunity, I can refrain from making political comments to do this work... I won't
die from that!"
Jennar continued: "I defend the principle of freedom of expression and freedom
of the press. If people want to criticise me it's their right, I just hope their
criticism is fair.
"I'm not at the moment an EU official. I don't speak on behalf of the EU."
Jennar was unrepentant about his published opinion that the United States tried ousting
Hun Sen during UNTAC. "I believe that. Many times I heard people in the information
component of UNTAC saying that they were here to expel CPP from power... many times."
Jennar said he saw no contradiction between his "expression of frustration"
at the work of some US journalists and his position as future head of the EU's media
"For me this is the same concern...," he said. "I don't think the
work of some US journalists is fair."
Jennar, in the Internet article, said some US journalists were acting like spokes-people
for their government.
He pointedly referred to a press conference given by EU head Gwyn Morgan on Jan 16,
where the EU's stance on Rana-riddh's continued absence was scrutinized and subject
of debate and intense questioning by mainly foreign journalists.
Jennar said in his article that the US journalists were one-sided, sensational, and
portrayed Hun Sen as the "bad guy' and opposition leader Sam Rainsy as the "good
He said US journalists - specifically three who were vocal at the Morgan press briefing
- were "anti-CPP" and were confusing fact with analysis.
"[And] that is one reason why we're criticising Khmer journalists. But foreign
journalists are committing the same mistake [of] not clearly separating fact and
Transcripts of the conference show the "three US journalists" were Matthew
Lee (AFP), Robin McDowell (AP) and Joe Cochrane (DPA). AP is the only US organization;
AFP is French and DPA German.
Jennar acknowledged the names, but said he did not want to get into a personal attack.
Lee, McDowell and Cochrane, speaking as individuals and not on behalf of their employers,
took angry issue with Jennar. Lee said he had been summoned and told by a CPP government
official that while the government had "no problem" with his stories, he
should be aware that "a Westerner was writing that you are pro-US".
Lee said: "It's interesting that this is coming from [Jennar], and not from
Cambodian officials, because he has a lot of money to gain if this project he is
defending goes through. What else can you think?"
Cochrane said: "This is ridiculous. It undermines the credibility of a person
who would have the position of responsibility of training Khmer journalists."
McDowell said Jennar "was acting like an intellectual prostitute".
Jennar, meanwhile, also pointed the finger at local journalists as being at least
in part responsible, through "rude words, calumny and misinformation",
of creating a climate of violence toward the media. However, he believed - contrary
to many human rights watchdogs - that there were wide press freedoms in Cambodia.
"Myself, I can accept to see papers suspended, but not only opposition papers,
but all [that use] rude words and defamations, no matter what political persuasion