The national election body has called on media proprietors to allot equal airtime to all political parties during campaigning for the upcoming local election.
In a letter signed by National Election Committee (NEC) Chairman Sik Bunhok on April 12, the body said that “the selling or renting broadcast hours to political parties for disseminating policy of the parties must be done in accordance with the principle of equality.”
The rules require radio and television stations to block monopolies on broadcasting for a particular party, a measure that will be difficult to implement in Cambodia’s highly polarized media scene.
Chea Sundaneth, director of the Women Media Center, which runs the FM 102 radio station, said the rules had been in place for some time, but were not always adhered to.
“In the past, there was not any political party coming to rent or buy broadcast hours from me because we had projects, so we let them come for free, she said.
Sam Inn, secretary general of the Grassroots Democratic Party (GDP), said the party did not have the funds to pay for campaign advertisements, so they would try to get broadcast time on state-run radio and television networks, as well as radio stations run by non-profits.
“This [anti-monopoly] principle is good, meaning the NEC required all private companies to rent broadcast hours with equal time and price,” he said.
“But we will wait to see if private television dare to implement the principle of NEC or not,” he added.
Sam Kuntheamy, executive director of election watchdog Nicfec, said the NEC had no real power to force broadcasters to implement the rules.
“Some political parties have a strong alignment with certain radio or television networks, so they can rent more hours via those radio and television stations,” he said.
Hang Puthea, NEC spokesman, said the body was also implementing rules to prohibit dirty campaigning involving the trading of insults between parties.
“Political campaigning is an act of showing the political spirit and view from the parties to the general public. This is the right thing. But what is wrong is instigation which has a nature of defaming or causing harm to the security, safety, and public order and so on,” he said.