UN Says Information Ministry Decided to Halt Equity Weekly

The U.N. Development Program (UNDP) said last month’s suspension of the “Equity Weekly” television program was uniquely due to a decision made by the Ministry of Information after the show aired a feature on economic land concessions in Ratanakkiri province.

“[T]he suspension was initially suggested by the Ministry of Information and agreed to by UNDP Cambodia,” a UNDP spokesperson said in an email.

“Equity Weekly,” which is broadcast every Sunday on the state-run channel TVK, funded by UNDP and aims at promoting good governance through investigative journalism, was taken off the air after the station received a complaint from the Ministry of Information announcing its displeasure over archive footage showing images of logging in the country.

“The decision was taken following a technical error in the identity of a portion of the footage used in a story related to the [Virachey] National Park in Ratanakkiri province. That portion of the footage was an archive but was not properly identified as such, which resulted in a misunderstanding,” the UNDP spokesperson said.

Environment Minister Mok Mareth confirmed that a letter he had sent to the Information Ministry had brought about the popular show’s suspension from broadcast.

“Yes, because if there’s wrong information, [there’s] no show,” Mr. Mareth said. “I wrote down the mistakes and sent it to the Ministry of Information,” which then informed TVK’s “Equity Weekly.”

Asked to comment on the government’s suspension of the show, Information Minister Khieu Kanharith referred a reporter to a letter his ministry had written to the UNDP.

“As for the letter, we unfortunately are unable to share with you as it is a formal correspondence addressed to UNDP specifically,” the UNDP spokesperson said.

On November 11, the last time “Equity Weekly” was broadcast, the host, Khem Vuthy, spent almost 25 minutes apologizing for the report made on September 30, which discussed the impacts of 50,000 hectares of economic land concessions used for rubber plantations in the Virachey National Park in Ratanakkiri—a province beset by land disputes and logging.

Ouy Bounmy, “Equity Weekly’s” senior producer, said that after the broadcast, he had to meet with Minister of Information Mr. Kanharith.

“Now it is just suspended. We are under discussion to improve reporting skills, because we don’t want to make or repeat the same mistakes again,” he said.

Spokesman for the Council of Ministers Phay Siphan said he did not believe that the show was suspended for its investigative journalism.

“This is not the government’s attitude. I know [Mr. Kanharith] very well and he wants to maintain different voices to be heard. There is no attitude to block free flow of ideas.”

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