Comfrel To Monitor Polling, Media Coverage

The Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia will begin monitoring media access to political parties and balance in the news in early January, the agency has announced.

Comfrel will also deploy its  monitoring staff to pol­ling stations throughout the country in preparation for the country’s first local elections, Comfrel officials said.

“A number of selected media will be monitored, including state media and the most popular radio and TV [stations]…to see that there is respect of media rules regarding the media’s role in the election process,” said Comfrel Media Monitoring Supervisor Mar Sophal. “All candidates and parties should have the opportunity to ex­press their platforms in the media and on an equal basis.”

Radio and TV broadcasts will be monitored in Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville and in Pursat, Battambang, Siem Reap and Kompong Cham provinces, Comfrel officials said. Monitors will note the amount of time devoted to coverage of different candidates, the tone of election coverage, and the opportunities given to politicians to air their views.

“For example, we will count how long the prime minister speaks on behalf of the government and how long he speaks on be­half of his party,” Mar Sophal said. In the run-up to the 1998 na­tional elections, the UN found Prime Minister Hun Sen received far more airtime than representatives of other parties.

The National Election Com­mittee has given each of eight political parties 70 minutes of airtime per day in the 15-day official campaign period leading up to the Feb 3 commune elections.

Comfrel plans to deploy 15,957 monitors at 12,381 polling stations during the campaign, election and ballot-counting processes, agency officials said. Of those, 15,590 have been selected. Com­frel will also em­­ploy more than 300 mobile monitoring staff, Election Mon­itoring Officer Tieng Saman said.

Comfrel is currently preparing to conduct 517 training sessions for the monitors.

“We are concerned about the capacity and responsibility of our observers. We will provide them with [election] knowledge and other necessities to make them independent,” Tieng Saman said. “We believe our staff will gain the confidence of the voters.”


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