Since TVK’s election reporting—which was widely considered groundbreaking for its multiple perspectives—concluded with the campaign period, the state-run outlet’s news coverage has returned to government-friendly content, some TVK reporters said last week.
While the 10- to 15-minute segments, which were sponsored by the UN Development Program and aided by foreign media advisers, introduced principles of independent journalism not previously seen in local television, TVK’s regular news programming has plodded along with its usual Information Ministry-approved fare, local news reporter Dy Narin said.
“Most TVK reporters have studied journalism and have professional skills and know about independent reporting, but they cannot carry out [those things],” Dy Narin said.
“Most of TVK’s local news covers the gift-giving of officials and protocol information. We never cover anything that affects or criticizes the government,” he said. “For myself, I want to do stories like demonstrations, but [TVK] would not broadcast my stories and they would charge us with bias toward the opposition party.”
Yos Sopheap, a TVK reporter who worked on the UNDP’s equity access program, said that since that project ended, coverage has been almost exclusively of government activities. “The reporters want to show the real situation, but the [station] manager and the [Information Ministry] officials will not allow it,” he said.
Yos Sopheap said he hopes TVK will get more support from the UNDP to produce more independent news programs. “A lot of people, they love this program because it is the first program for people to see what is happening,” he said.
TVK Deputy Director Ouy Bounmy, who has been at the station since it was established 20 years ago, said Tuesday there is widespread support for the state media to continue producing news programs like the election one.
He said that the spokesman for the Information Ministry, Khieu Khanarith, “said he wants us to continue with the program. Some other politicians also liked it.”
Ouy Bounmy said TVK is soliciting more UN donations for future programs, but as for simply applying the recently introduced principles to regular news programming, enthusiasm seems limited.
“We will try to change a little bit,” he said.
Cedric Jancloes, a UNDP media adviser who worked on TVK’s election coverage, said Tuesday the UNDP likely will help find funding for future news programs that will correlate political activities and Cambodian lives, if donors are willing.
According to Jancloes, there has been support from the bottom up into the Information Ministry. “There is a desire within government for change in the media,” he said.
Ian Porter of the Canadian NGO Institute for Media Policy and Civil Society, which has supplied on-the-job training to some media outlets including TVK, said Wednesday that the UNDP’s equity-access project made “an important contribution to coverage of the campaign.”
But his praise was cautious. “The concept of media as a watchdog is still very undeveloped, and that is a goal.”
Khieu Khanarith said Thursday he is seeking UNDP funding to continue news coverage “at least until the formation of a new government.”
He dismissed the timidity of state-run station managers and reporters as unprofessional. “If they want to cover [a story], they must go ahead. If they are professional they must make the report.
“Be conscious that you are professional before blaming someone else,” he said.
And if they encounter censorship or persecution, “they should report to me.”