Broadcast Bias Means CPP Dominates Airtime

The ruling CPP received nearly twice as much television and radio airtime last year than any other political party, and access to the broadcast media continues to be constrained by bias toward Prime Minister Hun Sen’s party, an election-monitoring group said in its annual report.

The Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (Comfrel) mon­itored the coverage political parties received across several television and radio stations during the primetime hours of 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. from Sept. 1 to Jan. 15.

During that time, Comfrel said, the ruling CPP “received more positive broad­casting time on TV stations than any other political party.”

“TV broadcasters of Cambodia are considered to lack equitable access for political parties other than CPP” in a trend that continued through 2011, Comfrel said in its annual report titled “Democracy, Election and Reform in Cambodia,” which was released on Thursday night.

“The CPP received almost the double of broadcasting time in TV stations than any other political party.”

Ek Tha, spokesman for the Coun­cil of Ministers, said that it was right the CPP should get more airtime because of the amount of people it was representing.

“We should get more airtime, be­cause we represent the mass majority of voters who support the CPP,” he said. “We should have more time to represent their voices.”

Comfrel also found that people’s rights to freely express themselves con­tinued to be restricted in 2011—some­thing it said was a “sincere issue.”

It said SRP lawmakers in particular were having their rights to express themselves curtailed, and cited the ex­­­­ample of SRP member of Parlia­ment Chan Cheng, who was stripped of his immunity late last year.

Mr. Tha denied that freedoms were being curtailed.

“We have freedom of speech, we have freedom of expression, we have a number of television and radio chan­nels, we have several newspapers and magazines operating freely in Cambodia,” he said.

In the report, Comfrel also called for a shakeup of the National Election Committee (NEC), which oversees the country’s elections but is made up of a majority of CPP members.

“The NEC and the subordinated provincial and communal election commissions are perceived to lack in­dependency and impartiality because of CPP dominance in the state ad­min­istration,” the report said.

The NEC board is composed of five CPP, two Funcinpec and two SRP members, but Comfrel said recommendations for political party proportionality at all levels of the election administration had been ignored.

NEC Secretary-General Tep Ny­tha said that while he had not read the Comfrel report, he had heard about it—but did not think it was necessary to introduce more members from other parties into the election committee mix.

“We can’t allow more party members to be NEC members because it would be very difficult to work to­gether,” he said.




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