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EU media guru says Ranariddh guilty

EU media guru says Ranariddh guilty

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

this election?"

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

is biased."

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

consumption.

"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

component.

"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

guy".

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

comment."

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

they are."

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