CNRP Launches Online TV to Break CPP’s Media Stranglehold

Amid the ruling CPP’s continuing stranglehold on the country’s nine terrestrial television stations, the opposition CNRP on Monday launched an online television station that it describes as a “test,” CNRP director of public affairs Mu Sochua said Wednesday.

The station, called CNRP TV, follows requests from the opposition party since the disputed July 28 national election for its own television station license as a step toward electoral and political reform in the country, a request that the ruling CPP has repeatedly denied.

Ms. Sochua said CNRP TV was an attempt to capitalize on growing use of social media to sidestep the “unfair treatment” of the opposition in being prevented from obtaining either TV or radio licenses.

“Social media use is now widespread, and we have seen that the youth especially are eager to learn about the party so we launched on­line television,” Ms. Sochua said, insisting that the party would nevertheless attempt to provide balance in its coverage of politics.

“The online CNRP TV is created neither to serve the party’s interests nor promote the party’s platform, but it gives the people a chance to speak out,” she said.

Launching CNRP TV on the opposition party’s website on Monday, anchor Yoeun Pheaktra interviewed Ms. Sochua to ask her about the CNRP’s position in its negotiation with the CPP over the disputed July election.

“The negotiation between the CNRP and the CPP on November 5 is just a technical dialogue, so please, audience, please listen to Ms. Mu Sochua,” the anchor said.

A blue CNN-style ticker scrolled across the bottom of the screen reading: “This is a test broadcast of CNRP TV.” Ms. Sochua then appeared on screen to soothe CNRP supporters regarding the negotiations on Tuesday with the CPP.

“The negotiation is not a talk to demand positions or to gain benefits for any individuals,” she said.

Since Monday’s initial broadcast, CNRP TV has featured a number of news programs including a wrap-up of Tuesday’s negotiations with the CPP and a roundtable discussion on how to promote democracy.

CPP lawmaker and party spokesman Cheam Yeap Wednesday gave qualified support to the opposition party’s creation of an online television service.

Mr. Yeap counseled the CNRP to “respect the profession of journalism” in its effort by not using “insulting words against any political party in particular” and to make sure they respect the legalities of broadcasting.

“It is their right to launch a television station to get fair competition… but I think even if it is online television, it should get approval from a relevant ministry such as the Ministry of Information,” Mr. Yeap said.

CPP Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said in September that the CNRP could not be given a TV license as such licenses are not given to political parties.

Despite the minister’s statement, each of the country’s nine terrestrial television stations are either owned or seemingly infatuated with Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling CPP. The list includes Bayon TV, which is owned by Mr. Hun Sen’s daughter, Hun Mana, and Apsara Television, which is owned by the son of CPP Secretary-General Say Chhum—Environment Minister Say Sam Al—and Deputy Prime Minister Sok An. CTN, CNC and MyTV are owned by businessman Kith Meng, who has had a long and close relationship with Mr. Hun Sen.

Mr. Yeap also claimed that the CPP does not exert control over the country’s television stations, explaining that the nine channels’ inordinate coverage of the ruling CPP was simply a matter of money.

“We pay for that television [coverage] by buying broadcasting hours to show our achievements,” he said.

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