Political Chat Unwelcome on Radio Call-In Show

Radio National Kampuchea, which is receiving $2.3 million in sup­port from the Australian gov­ern­ment and assistance from ABC Radio Australia, will broadcast its first issues-oriented call-in show later this year, government officials said Sunday.

The “talkback” radio show’s in­tention is to help foster democracy by encouraging on-air debate by te­le­­phone callers, according to the Aus­­tralian Embassy.

“Providing public space for people to share information and voice their concerns is fundamental to de­mo­cracy in Cambodia,” Austral­ian Ambassador Lisa Filipetto said in a news release Thursday.

The show “is particularly timely as it will support enhanced participation of rural communities in the up­­coming Senate elections in 2006, commune elections in 2007 and the next general election in 2008,” the statement added.

Government officials said Sun­day that callers will be dissuaded from talking about politics or criticizing the government during the live broadcasts.

Tan Yan, director-general of na­tion­al radio, said the purpose of the program is to “let the people have their opinions about their living conditions and about their farms and about education.” But “this is not the forum to talk about politics or to serve any political party,” he ad­ded.

The director-general explained that no opinions will be censored but talk will be confined to agriculture, rural development, health, education, the environment and other development-related topics.

“If they try to talk about politics, we will try to persuade and coordinate them to turn to talk about [another] subject,” he said.

Information Minister Khieu Kan­harith also said those who air comments critical of the government in the broadcasts will be asked to stick to the outlined subjects.

“If they want to know about politics, they can listen to the National As­sembly members debate,” he said.

Asked whether discussion on po­litical topics or issues critical of the gov­ernment were meant to be ex­cluded from the radio show, Aus­tralian Ambassa­dor Lisa Fili­petto said: “Our intention for this pro­gram is set out in the press re­lease.”

Radio National Kampu­chea’s hour-long talkback radio show is ex­pected to debut in November, initially running two or three times a week, Tan Yan said.


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