Mu Sochua’s National Radio Appearance Shelved for ‘Balance’

A rare state-run radio appearance by opposition lawmaker Mu Sochua on Saturday was called off at the last minute, with a station manager citing a need for “balance.”

SRP National Assembly member Ms. Sochua was scheduled to speak on the hour-long NGO-run show “Women’s Voices, Women’s Choices” on Radio National Kampuchea (RNK) at 11 a.m.

But just as she was set to go on air, the RNK’s program manager Bo Vannarith pulled the appearance, Kettia Voleak, program coordinator at “Women’s Voices, Women’s Choices,” said.

“I received a phone call from Mr. Vannarith 30 minutes before the show and he said he would not allow our guest speaker [Ms. Sochua] answer the callers’ questions,” Ms. Voleak said.

Mr. Vannarith told Ms. Voleak to find a government counterpart to appear alongside Ms. Sochua, but it was not possible to find one in time, she said.

“We have invited the speakers from the NGO and the government officials many times, but we never had a problem, everything was going well,” Ms. Voleak said. “Our program deals with [topics including] women’s rights, female migrants and rape cases.”

Ms. Voleak said the planned discussion was about women in politics, and that the show has been renting out the slot on RNK since 2010.

Mr. Vannarith said he denied the opposition parliamentarian access to the airwaves on the ground of balance. “We can’t allow her because they didn’t have the government guest speaker, so it is not balanced,” he said. “Our radio station belongs to the government and is under the management of the Ministry of Information.”

“They can do it anytime, but they need to have a guest speaker from the government,” he added.

Ms. Sochua said the move was aimed at drowning out any voice but the government.

“This policy is anti-Constitutional,” Ms. Sochua said. “It is anti-women and discrimination against an opposition member.”

She said she agreed that broadcasting should be balanced, but argued that government-run airwaves are packed with unopposed government voices.

“Ruling party members, male or female, I hear them on the radio all the time,” Ms. Sochua said. “I’ve been a member of Parliament for over five years; this time was the only time that I’ve been able to appear on the radio except for during the election campaign.”

Ms. Sochua argued that the topic of the show would not even have been party political, but was focused on gender.

“I was going to talk about the role of women in the house and outside the house,” she said. “And the courage it takes for women to step outside the traditional role in the house. I was going to talk about women’s involvement in politics.”

She said the program has now been rescheduled, and will include a government representative, in two weeks time.

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