Funcinpec and Sam Rainsy Party officials slammed TVK Wedneday for failing to give all parliamentary hopefuls equal access during the 1998 national elections, and expressed fears the same unbalanced coverage may again occur in the lead-up to next February’s commune elections.
Tan Bun Sor, adviser to Sam Rainsy, and Beau Boliden, deputy chairman of the Information Committee for Funcinpec, accused TVK—the state-owned television station—of giving more election coverage to the CPP in 1998.
“We want fair media coverage. I demand the National Election Committee and the Ministry of Information have a fair policy, so that all parties have equal time on national TV and radio,” Beau Boliden said during a workshop discussing media and the election process. “Funcinpec is trying to make the commune elections transparent, and we don’t want TVK to exaggerate or slander the other parties.”
Tan Bun Sor agreed, saying that TVK is violating election laws that promise equal coverage for all political parties.
He also blasted Funcinpec and the CPP for using their money to buy more air time.
“The two ruling parties have all the time on the radio and television because they have all the money and power,” Tan Bun Sor said. “All TV receive money from the people, not just the major political parties, so the coverage should be for all the people, not just the ruling parties.”
TVK disseminates propaganda rather than information, Tan Bun Sor claimed, noting that TVK televised many reports of Prime Minister Hun Sen distributing rice during the 1998 elections and treated them as news events.
“Is that giving information or is that campaigning?” he asked. “[Televising those reports of Hun Sen] is not information—that is propaganda.”
During the 1998 election, CPP candidates appeared on the main news television and radio programs (TVK, TV5, TV3 and National Radio) a total of 434 times, with 218 of those appearances coming on TVK, according to a report by the Special Representative to the UN Secretary-General for Human Rights in Cambodia. That compared with 109 appearances total for the next eight biggest political parties. TVK televised 56 appearances by those eight parties.
Officials from TVK denied the criticisms, saying that TVK gives fair coverage to all political parties.
“We broadcast the meetings from the National Assembly, so what do you mean when you say the Sam Rainsy Party is not on TVK—you must not watch television,” said Dy Soknath, deputy director general of TVK. “We televise all the news events from the political parties, the Senate and the government.”
The amount of air time each political party receives is decided by the National Election Committee, not the individual television stations, Dy Soknath said.
“The National Election Committee has not decided how much air time each political party will get because they still do not know how many parties are running,” said NEC secretary general Im Sousdey.
By Oct 16, the NEC will know how many parties are participating in the upcoming elections, and that will dictate how much television time is alotted to each party, he said.
The local nature of the commune elections is markedly different than the 1998 national elections, in which each party was given 15 minutes of air time, according to Im Sousday.
“During the 1998 elections, candidates needed to campaign across the whole nation, but now they are campaigning in a much smaller area—just in the communes—so they will need less time on the television,” he said.