State-owned TVK will be the sole television station to broadcast news of the upcoming general elections following a decision by private station managers to turn a collective blind eye to news they said could anger viewers.
Also, government officials said Sunday they have nearly completed the recruitment of more than 8,100 commune officers to conduct the elections, though critics say the recruits are mostly former election officers with CPP ties.
Six station managers have agreed not to broadcast news about political campaigning or events leading up to the July 27 elections, said Mau Ayut, president of the Cambodian Television Association, on Sunday.
“They said they will keep quiet during the election campaign because they are afraid” that they could be accused of political bias, Mau Ayut said.
TVK’s coverage will be propelled by a $75,000 donation by the UN Development Program and a cadre of television journalists. Foreign media experts are coaching TVK journalists to produce impartial election coverage about all 23 participating parties, to begin June 12 and extend to Election Day, UNDP resident representative Dominique McAdams said.
McAdams signed the agreement with the Ministry of Information on Thursday.
“For almost six weeks, the Cambodian people will have the coverage of the normal news, like any democratic country,” she said. The program will fund equipment upgrades as well as reporters’ expenses as they follow political candidates across the country.
The coverage will follow a “broadcast equity” format, allotting time to political parties based proportionally on their followings. Forty-four percent of the air time will go to the CPP, 29 percent to Funcinpec and 19 percent to the Sam Rainsy Party.
It was unclear Sunday who will edit the news coverage or decide what portions will be broadcast.
Meanwhile, authorities in Kompong Cham province arrested a man they believe axed a 23-year-old Sam Rainsy Party activist to death Wednesday night. Police deny the attack was politically motivated.
Sim Sann, 18, attacked Pol Vin as the man returned home from a dance and killed him for “personal reasons,” said Kompong Cham Police Chief Kang Sokhorn.
In an unrelated incident, a Sam Rainsy Party member was killed outside of his home in Rumduol district, Svay Rieng province Friday night, officials said.
Sam Saran was shot three times by two attackers on a motorbike, according to Svay Rieng Governor Hun Neng, who said the shooting was likely a “personal dispute.”
Sam Saran, a former CPP member, joined the Sam Rainsy Party in 1998, said Lon Phon, the chief of the Sam Rainsy Party Council of Svay Rieng province. No arrests have been made in the case.
Also on Sunday, NEC officials announced they were in the process of approving election committees to man polling stations and administer the elections on a local level.
Commune election committee members are nominated by their respective provincial election committees and finally appointed by the NEC.
But most of the appointed commune election committee members have participated in earlier elections and have ties to the CPP, said Hang Puthea, executive director of the Neutral Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections.
“I think these new CEC are just like the former CEC,” Hang Puthea said. “They will lack transparency and have a bias.”
Tep Nitha, NEC secretary-general, defended the appointments and promised transparency and neutrality.
(Additional reporting by Luke Reynolds and Saing Soenthrith)