Saturday, November 23, 2013

How Fair are the Media in Cambodia?

The CPP's propaganda machine
By Khmer Wathanakam

There are at least ten TV stations and hundreds of radio stations and news papers In Cambodia, but only few of them broadcast and distribute reliable news for people.  Although the constitution fully guarantees  free press but most media are tightly controlled by the ruling party, especially the TV stations that monopoly gripped by the CPP.  All ten TV stations broadcast the same news and speak the same language of the CPP's propaganda.  If they choose to cover the opposition and people's activities, they try to manipulate and distort the news from black to white and white to black.  As news on the government controlled media are not reliable, now most people turn to social media and Internet networks that mostly are free from the government restriction and very popular among the youths.  To attract more audiences, recently, many government controlled media started to cover some opposition activities, and now Mr. Khanharith, a minister of information, ordered to cut off tedious news from the state-run TVK covering government officials' activities.  However, all these measures fall short to gain trust from the public, for they don't change contents of the news and still heavily bias toward the ruling party.

Nothing unusual, during the election campaigns, every prime time of all the TV stations fully covered the CPP campaigns finished with negative images or distorted news from the opposition.  More than this, there was very appalling to the public when Sam Rainsey returned from his nearly four-year political exile with ten thousands of cheering people came to welcome him from airport without a minute of news coverage from all TV stations in the country while many prominent foreign news reporters flew thousands of miles to cover this historic event such as ABC, BBC, AFP, Kiodo, and so on.  In a true democratic country, such a great event is a live broadcast to people throughout the country and the world.  The media coverage in such a great event mutually benefits the people to receive true and vivid news as well as the media businesses which make more profit from their advertising sales when they can attract more audiences on their air time.   But no TV station in the country is brave enough to break the CPP's media grip, since losing license to operate the TV is more serious than losing the audiences.

Nevertheless, after election time, the CPP's controlled media started to change their tactics of distributing  news in order to compete with the most popular social media that are independent but bravely devoted to  divulge all truths to the public such as I love Cambodia Hot News, founded by a young brave student, Thy Sovantha, and numerous websites that fiercely speak against injustice in society. The CPP's new tactic by providing some air time coverages to the opposition activities and the people protests make no differences, for the contents of the news on TVs are still very distorted and heavy bias.  For instances, during many major opposition mass protests against election fraud, all the TVs did not broadcast the important news about the number of protesters, speeches and grievances of the people or showed large crowds of protesters on the Plaza, instead they focused on traffics and police protecting safety and showed few scattered protesters walking on the sidewalks.  Recently, in an event of violence at Wat Steung Meanchey, the TVs failed to air horrendous pictures of police violence but to show burning police trucks and blamed the protesters as opportunists.  But those police brutalities against innocent onlookers and monks were fully exposed by numerous social media and some foreign networks.

The media in Cambodia especially the TVs never air reliable and truthful news to the public but full of the government propaganda and distorted news in order to serve interest of the ruling party which has ruled the country over 34 years by manipulating the people from the truths.  A deep reform announced by Hun Sen after creating his new unilateral government is just a facade; nothing is meaningful unless the current regime is changed.  In a country where every national institution under one party control is impossible for the people to receive impartial news from the government's controlled media.  To get some fair share of media coverages in their current struggle, the opposition should own at least one TV and one radio station in order to broadcast their own policies and activities to the public while currently the people rarely see the opposition activities on any TV screen in the country except their negative ones. 

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