TVK To Continue Airing Show Accused of Bias

After four broadcasts, officials from national television station TVK said Tuesday the station will continue its new roundtable program, produced in cooperation with the Council of Ministers, amid complaints that it unfairly favors the ruling CPP.

The program, which does not have an official title, began airing in late August with a single one-hour spot per week. Its format is based around a panel discussion on current political issues, hosted by Council of Ministers spokesman Pen Thol. Reruns of the show are aired on TV3, Apsara and Bayon.

“TVK is the state television, so we have to produce useful programs for the people,” said Mau Ayuth, TVK’s station director.

Council of Ministers spokes­man Prum Nhien Vichet said the idea for the program arose from political accusations and rumors following the July 27 election.

“Our main purpose of forming the program is to clarify some accusations,” he said. “We want to make people clearly understand the problems. We can’t let the people listen to only one side.”

Prum Nhien Vichet said the government had helped fund the roundtable program, but he did not disclose the production costs.

So far, the show’s topics have focused on citizens’ right to hold demonstrations, the responsibility of the media and the political standoff between the three main parties.

The Council of Ministers has invited government ministers, professionals and some NGO officials to be guests on the program, TVK officials said. But so far, the guests have not included members representing any parties other than the CPP.

The lack of alternative voices has raised some criticism against the program. Cambodian Center for Human Rights director Kem Sokha said on Tuesday that the roundtable program was meaningless for ordinary viewers because the participants were mostly government supporters.

“The program is just a government tool to strengthen its power,” Kem Sokha said.

He said the roundtable discussions should include a broader spectrum of society, especially independent analysts and commentators, to debate and share ideas.

“If the government wants the program to be acceptable, they should allow independent officials to participate in the program,” he said.

Over the past two weeks, the Cambodian Center for Human Rights aired re-runs of its own roundtable show on Beehive Radio Station, which included only “independent” NGO panelists.

In the run-up to the general election, TVK’s news coverage was widely praised by international and local observers for its inclusion of multiple perspectives. With sponsorship from the UN Development Program, the station participated in an equity access program, which introduced principles of independent journalism to the state-run media outlet. But by mid-August, some TVK reporters said the station had reverted to government-friendly content.

During the 1998 national election and the 2001 commune elections, Funcinpec and Sam Rainsy Party officials sharply criticized TVK for providing unbalanced coverage in favor of the CPP.


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