Opposition:UN-Backed News Biased

The Sam Rainsy Party de­nounced “biased” TVK and national radio coverage of the election campaign and said the party had withdrawn from the equity news broadcast format backed and supervised by the UN Development Program.

“We feel strongly that there is glaring biased treatment in the broadcast in favor of the ruling parties,” party spokesman Ung Bun-Ang told reporters at party headquarters Monday.

The news broadcasts, produced jointly by TVK journalists and UNDP-sponsored foreign media experts, feature interviews with election monitors, opposition candidates and regular citizens, and are a sharp departure from traditional state-run news coverage in the country. UNDP officials hailed the program as a media breakthrough when it began airing daily on June 22. But Ung Bun-Ang on Monday said the news reports “up to now have done a lot of damage to our image, our credibility.”

Footage of the party’s march on June 26 misrepresented the number of supporters who attended, he charged, and another clip of Sam Rainsy was intentionally overexposed.

He also accused TVK reporters of interviewing people who hesitantly supported Sam Rainsy and, in contrast, staunch CPP supporters.

“We do not want to play a game where we do not have control,” Ung Bun-Ang said.

The National Election Com­mittee will contact the party today and urge it to cooperate with the broadcast, said NEC spokesman Leng Sochea.

TVK journalists will continue to cover Sam Rainsy’s campaign, said the UNDP’s media adviser, Daphne Skillen. She defended the news coverage as fair and said Sam Rainsy was seeking special treatment.

“He can’t tell a journalist the news, that they can’t cover him. He is then violating the freedom of speech and the right of journalists to report on candidates,” Skillen said. “We’re doing this for the voters, not for the SRP,” she said.

The party’s withdrawal is not expected to affect ongoing coverage, said Ung Bun-Ang. He added that Sam Rainsy Party officials will likely continue to grant interviews to TVK reporters.

Monday’s announcement was instead intended as a “wake-up call” to the broadcasts’ bias, Sam Rainsy said.

“We feel exploited,” Ung Bun-Ang said.

In other election news:

The founder of Beehive Radio said Monday he would comply with a Ministry of Information request and immediately stop broadcasting news from Voice of America and Radio Free Asia.

“I will stop the broadcast be­cause I don’t want a chaotic situation to happen before the election,” Beehive’s Mam Sonando said.

Beehive began airing the news segments on July 1, prompting ministry officials to threaten shutting down the station. Khieu Kanharith, the ministry’s undersecretary of state, said Sunday that the station did not have permission to broadcast news programs produced outside of Cambodia.

In Siem Reap province, police said two men fired a B-40 rocket-propelled grenade in the direction of a CPP activist’s house early Monday morning in Kantrang commune, Prasat Bakong district.

No one was injured in the attack, and no arrests have been made.

“This is a revenge case. I think the offenders want to kill her, but they lack the technique to use the weapon,” said Siem Reap provincial Penal Police Chief Ou Em.

Tauch Saro, the Sam Rainsy Party director in the province, said the rocket was instead launched at the nearby house of 37-year-old Vath Von, a Sam Rain­sy supporter.

“They are angry with the Sam Rainsy Party activist, that is why they do that,” Tauch Saro said.

The president of the CPP Mus­lim Association, Othsman Hassan, said Monday that he led more than 20,000 supporters in a march through Kratie town on Sunday.

The march comes less than a week after about 3,000 pro-CPP Muslims marched in Phnom Penh.

“The Muslims support the CPP because the CPP liberated us from the Khmer Rouge regime and then built a lot of infrastructure for the Muslim people,” Othsman Hassan said.

Meak Sam Phorn, chief of the Royal Cabinet, said in a telephone interview Monday that he had received no formal notice from King Norodom Sihanouk, who is in Beijing, about when he will return to Cambodia. The King has stated that he will come back to Phnom Penh before the election.

Peter Leuprecht, a special representative for human rights to the UN secretary-general, will brief the press today on his findings over his weeklong stay here.

Leuprecht will issue the first of the UN’s two reports on the upcoming elections, as well as address land and forestry issues and legal and judicial reform, according to a UN news release.

Today, Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh will campaign at a pagoda in the Kom­pong Tralach district of Kompong Chhnang province and Sam Rain­sy will campaign in Prey Veng province. Prime Minister Hun Sen is not scheduled to make a public appearance today, government adviser Om Yen­tieng said.


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