Radio Official Defends Assembly Coverage

A 30-minute speech at the National Assembly in which opposition leader Sam Rainsy blasted the government for poor economic performance was not broadcast on state-owned television and radio stations.

Normally all National Assem­bly debates are taped during the morning sessions, and the tapes are delivered to state TV and radio stations for same-day broadcast.

Last Wednesday morning, Min­ister of Finance Keat Chhon defended the government’s financial practices as lawmakers were considering the budget proposal for the next fiscal year.

Sam Rainsy followed with a blistering speech criticizing the growing income gap between the rich and poor, the condition of the education and health systems, the low salaries of government employees and other issues.

That speech was not heard on state radio or TV on Wednesday and hasn’t been played since. Sam Rainsy Party lawmakers claim every other speech in the National Assembly for the past two years has been broadcast.

Tan Yan, deputy general director of National Radio, said the station sometimes makes editorial judgments about what speeches it will air.

“We did not broadcast that speech,” Tan Yan said. “We have the right not to broadcast [a speech] if it is not beneficial to society.”

Kem Gunniwath, deputy general director of TVK, said he could not comment.

TVK was also criticized recently for not airing videotapes of at least three major public forums and one roundtable discussion organized by the Center for Social Development.

The topics of the three forums were “Land Ownership” held in Battambang in 1998; “Khmer Rouge and National Recon­ciliation” held in Phnom Penh and Kandal province last Feb­ruary; and “Buddhism and the Role of Buddhist Monks in Building Society” held in Oct­ober. The roundtable discussed the election of communal councils.

According to the center’s president, Chea Vannath, TVK and CSD have cooperated to televise 38 public forums since 1996. She said it costs her organization $200 to film each program, and that when TVK does agree to televise a program, the station charges $200 for each hour of air time.

TVK Director May Ayuth said all the forums organized by the center sounded the same. “They were all [about] the same story everyone has heard of,” May Ayuth said. “[The center] should have created something new. ”



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