Ministry Pulls Plug on Broadcasts of Assembly

The Ministry of Information has ceased broadcasting full-length National Assembly sessions on state-run TVK, which until now had allowed the public to watch the country’s par­liamen­tarians debate.

Information Minister Khieu Kan­harith said Wednesday he decided to stop broadcasting the sessions, citing lack of interest from television audiences.

“There is no one who complains [other than]…the parliamentarians themselves because they want to see themselves on television,” Khieu Kanharith said.

TVK dropped the Assembly ses­­sions from its lineup on Mon­day, and is now broadcasting an edited 15-minute recap, he said.

“I think audiences understand [the edited clip] better,” he said. He added: “I want TVK to be more professional.”

Unless Hun Sen orders otherwise, Khieu Kan­ha­rith said, Sen­ate sessions will also be edited to 15 minutes for broadcast on TVK.

Reporters at the Assembly, who are normally able to view the ses­sions live on a wide-screen television, found the television gone Tues­day, replaced by a giant speaker that left them struggling to identify the voice of each lawmaker addressing the Assembly.

The weekly Council of Min­is­ters meetings are also closed to re­port­ers. And in March 2003, Phnom Penh municipality barred reporters from its weekly meetings.

Assembly President Prince No­ro­dom Ranariddh attacked the decision to remove the sessions from the airwaves. On Wednes­­day he asked CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap to buy cameras and create a studio for the Assembly to create its own television station.

“The Constitution states that when there is a National As­sem­b­ly meeting, the public should have access to see the meeting,” he said after Wednes­day’s session.

“We want to get free from Khieu Kanharith,” he said. “Or if Prime Minister Hun Sen would only take Khieu Kanharith out of the government.”

Opposition lawmaker Keo Remy later said: “I am very disappointed with the new minister. He doesn’t even understand the Con­stitution.”

Contacted by telephone, Khieu Kanharith said it’s up to Hun Sen to decide whether he stays as min­­ister. “I only do my work,” he said.

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