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Little Access to Media Ahead of Sunday’s Vote: Experts

Pa Nguonteang, Executive Director, Cambodian Center for Independent Media.
Pa Nguonteang, Executive Director, Cambodian Center for Independent Media.

Political parties vying for seats in the local commune councils have access to media, but it is still unequal, making it hard for voters to make informed decisions, a media specialist says.

“Media, especially radio and television, are very influential on voters in Cambodia, but almost all of them are under the influence of the ruling party,” Pa Nguon Teang, executive director of the Cambodian Center for Independent Media, told “Hello VOA” Monday.

Cambodia has 99 radio and 17 TV stations registered at Ministry of Information as of early 2012. Out of these there are only a few radio stations operated by NGOs or by opposition parties.

Most TV stations are controlled by powerful business interests friendly to the Cambodian People’s Party, Pa Nguon Teang said. Voters, then, can be misled by these stations and state media, which broadcast positively for the CPP and avoid topics like land grabs, the murder of activists and others, he said.

“This is unfair to voters, because there is only one side of the story, and no reports on the government’s wrongdoings,” he said.

Campaigning for commune elections will end on Friday, with voting to take place Sunday. Ten parties are registered to compete, but the smaller parties have little access to funding and the media, pitting them as underdogs to the CPP.

“The ruling party has campaigned on national TV since long before the campaign kicked off,” said Sin Vanrith, secretary-general of the Khmer Anti-Poverty Party.

That’s a major disadvantage, Pa Nguon Teang said.

“We need to regularly promote our party’s platform, and in order to do this, we need a station, but no one will sell airtime to us,” he said. “This includes during the electoral campaign, when it is required” by the National Election Committee, he said.