Kem Gunawadh, the long-serving director-general of TVK who helped set up the state broadcaster in 1983, resigned abruptly on Saturday in what his successor said was a reaction to government criticism over his decision not to broadcast live that morning’s annual Royal Plowing Ceremony.
The resignation came just two days after TVK ran a 15-minute CNRP campaign slot ahead of Sunday’s council elections that showed brutal footage of bloody government suppression of protests in recent months—a rare sight on the government-run station.
Information Minister Khieu Kanharith confirmed that Mr. Gunawadh had resigned but declined to specify the reason. He denied that the long-time public servant’s departure was related to the protest footage, which had already been pre-approved and edited for airing by the National Election Committee.
“In our field it isn’t the loyalty that comes first, it’s competence that prevails,” he said in a message. Local news website Thmey Thmey had quoted Mr. Kanharith on Saturday afternoon saying that Mr. Gunawadh had resigned because “he wants to rest for a while.”
TVK’s deputy director-general Pang Nath confirmed Sunday that he has replaced Mr. Gunawadh as acting director-general after serving alongside him for almost 30 years. Mr. Nath insisted the resignation was purely in response to criticism of the decision not to broadcast live the plowing ceremony on Saturday or inform the public it would not be screened.
“Last year, because of technical problems, we could not provide a live broadcast from the ceremony in Kompong Cham province but we notified the public about the situation. This year, we failed to do so,” Mr. Nath said.
Technical problems were also behind this year’s non-broadcast, he added, but Mr. Gunawadh ultimately made the call to scrap the broadcast. That decision came, Mr. Nath said, when unspecified superiors in the ministry did not respond when Mr. Gunawadh notified them of a problem.
“This year, TVK alone decided not to do it,” he said. “[We] still had the capability to do it if we had cooperated with other, private television stations.” he said.
In the past, Mr. Gunawadh said it was his duty as a state employee to obey government policy to cover the activities of senior officials and “show the good work of the government,” with coverage usually decided by the Information Ministry.
“I am not a politician. My job is as one official of the government staff,” he said in a 2001 interview.
Moeun Chhean Nariddh, director of the Cambodia Institute for Media Studies, said he believed the proximity of Mr. Gunawadh’s resignation to the CNRP campaign video was coincidental, adding that he should be commended for stepping down to take responsibility for TVK’s serious mistake.
“Many government officials have over the past few years made many mistakes and no one is ever held accountable or takes responsibility,” he said.
“His resignation makes him a good role model for policy makers and the leaders of our country for holding himself accountable for his mistake.”
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