Traditionally Pro-CPP Media See New Market With CNRP

By Aun Pheap and Colin Meyn
October 28, 2013
The Cambodia Daily

In the prelude to and direct aftermath of July’s national election, local Khmer-language media largely ignored the opposition’s growing street rallies and demonstrations.

But during the three days of protests last week, the CNRP was front-page news in all of the major Khmer-language newspapers.

Broadcast media also found new interest in the country’s long-ignored political opposition.

State-owned TVK aired regular coverage of the mass demonstrations and the Cambodia News Channel (CNC), owned by local businessman Kith Meng, invited CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann for an exclusive interview on Friday about the opposition’s desire to restart negotiations with the CPP to end the ongoing political impasse.

Editors at local news outlets said Sunday that the shift in the media’s coverage of politics away from solely focusing on Prime Minister Hun Sen’s long-ruling CPP is part of efforts to expand their audience following July’s election when the opposition party won nearly half of the more than 6 million votes cast.

“We started broadcasting activities of the opposition party because we wanted to attract the opposition supporters to see the independence of our television channel,” said Som Chhaya, deputy general director of CTN, the parent station of CNC.

“We just want those opposition supporters to turn to watch our channel,” he said.

Pol Saroeun, editor of the popular Koh Santepheap daily newspaper, said that the editorial move away from solely covering the CPP was financial in nature, and done in an effort to attract more readers from both sides of the political divide.

“We have changed our policy to attract more readers,” he said. “No newspaper is 100 percent neutral or independent, we have to im­prove by [publishing] information without bias,” he said.

However, although images of the CNRP demonstrations now appear on the front pages of previously staunchly pro-CPP newspapers and on TV news programs, the content of the stories remain heavily biased toward Mr. Hun Sen’s party, said Moeun Chhean Nariddh, director of the Cambodia Institute for Media Studies.

As in 1993, when the U.N. sponsored Cambodia’s first democratic elections, pro-CPP media outlets have “continued to maintain their political affiliation to the ruling party by keeping focus on positive side of the government and the negative side of opposition,” Mr. Chhean Nariddh said.

“Before, during and immediately after the election, [there is a policy of] not touching any stories related to opposition. But now, they have to be more professional in order to compete in the media marketplace by following what readers want,” he said.

In the weekend edition of Koh Santepheap, a two-column photograph of opposition leaders Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha leading a march to the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Phnom Penh was placed above the fold on the front page. The accompanying headline, running over four columns, said “Change after election = Coup d’etat: United Nations not able to let Cambodia return to tragedy.” The accompanying story argued that the CNRP’s efforts to lobby the international community to intervene in Cambodia’s post-election dispute were futile.

“On October 23, the opposition party used a new trick saying that they are celebrating the 22nd anniversary of Paris Peace Agree­ment, but in fact the opposition party used this ceremony to incite a movement for not recognizing the government that was formed legally,” Koh Santepheap editorialized, in traditional fashion.

In Friday’s Kampuchea Thmey Daily, which is owned by a daughter of Mr. Hun Sen, CNRP leaders were pictured on the front page delivering a petition to the U.S. Em­bassy in Phnom Penh on Wednesday. The accompanying headline read “CNRP held demonstrations out of agreed limits,” while the story went on to detail how the CNRP had broken its agreement with the Interior Ministry, noting also that the number of opposition demonstrators had dropped significantly since the first day of protests.

Pen Samitthy, editor-in-chief of the popular Rasmei Kampuchea Daily, whose newspaper focused most of its CNRP demonstrations coverage on the government’s security concerns, said that efforts by his newspaper to be more neutral in its coverage of last week’s demonstrations were stymied by CNRP politicians.

“We faced difficulty in covering this event because the opposition party doesn’t like our newspaper and criticizes it as being pro-CPP, and sometimes CNRP officials refuse to give comments to our reporters,” Mr. Samitthy said.

Chhay Sophal, a journalism lecturer and the editor of the Cambodia News website, said that while editors and publishers are making efforts to appear more balanced in an effort to attract more readers from the growing opposition, they still remain fearful of publishing stories critical of Mr. Hun Sen’s government.

“This is media competition so they try to attract their readers and viewers: that is why they change their coverage. They show the image [of the CNRP], but still criticize” the party, he said.

“They are still scared, that is why even though they show the image, the content is still giving favor to the government.”

© 2013, The Cambodia Daily. All rights reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced in print, electronically, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without written permission.

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4 Responses to "Traditionally Pro-CPP Media See New Market With CNRP"

  1. Samneang says:

    Yes, that is right.
    If those pro CPP medias do not change the outlook, to be more transparent and impartial then people will not be interested in them any more. And CPP links cannot afford to supply funds to back up these irrelevant medias any longer.
    It takes a big kick start of CNRP to ease self obsessive image of the CPP.


  2. 23 October says:

    Yes, that is right!!!

  3. Chourn says:

    I think this is a process of those media keeping their customers to continue to read their newspapers, in reality the meanings of the text media are still traditionally supported to Hun Sen. The question why those media is now changed their policy? the only answer is that many people now do not buy the newspapers which are pro-Hun Sen as well as do not watch TV Chanels that pro-Hun Sen any more. So those media will lose their incomes and lead to bankrupt for sure if they do not change their policies. I heart some people who are pr0-Sam Rainsy had destroyed their TVs when they saw Hun Sen or some facke or stupid Ph-D guest speakers. Whereas some peole being found a radio with the brand name of Free Asia Radio. If someone can find this radio’s brand name please let me know because many million of people want to buy this kind of radio.

  4. Samneck says:

    Sam Rainsy And Kem Sokha: A Perfect Pair Or Odd Bedfellows?

    In the last days of the recent election campaign in Cambodia, Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha often showed up together, creating an image of a perfect pair that will be able to lead Cambodia. However, a look into the past show that the ambitions and the characters of the two are not what they appear to be.

    Although Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha are trying to create an image of a strategic alliance between two perfect counterparts in the Cambodian political arena, they are not able to conceal the contradiction, suspicion and looseness of a temporary coalition. Being together in the same alliance, but in fact Kem Sokha does not want Sam Rainsy to return to Cambodia. Instead, he wants to have exclusive rights and gradually consolidate his power within Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP). As for Sam Rainsy, he has always mistrusted Kem Sokha and thought that Kem Sokha could be a chessman in the hand of some forces who want to split and erase Sam Rainsy Party(SRP).

    Earlier, in 1995, when Sam Rainsy’s parliamentary immunity was stripped of by the National Assembly, Kem Sokha was the Chairman of National Assembly’s Human rights and Compliance Committee and he was the one to vote for the removal of Sam Rainsy, saying: “Up to 99% of members of the National Assembly share the idea”. Subsequently, in 2006, after Sam Rainsy’s return on February 10 to meet Prime Minister Hun Sen two days later, Kem Sokha aggressively criticized the renovation of SRP and accused Sam Rainsy as a reactionary. On March 22 the same year, Kem Sokha banned SRP leaders and its members to participate in discussions he organized. For Sam Rainsy’s part, he exposed Kem Sokha’s intention to leave the human rights center to form a party. Sam Rainsy blamed Kem Sokha as a “fake human right activist”. After the 2008 election, both Human Rights Party (HRP) and Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) accused Cambodia People Party (CPP) of “cheating” and asked international leaders and organizations to put pressure on Hun Sen. However, a conflict arose between the two parties when Kem Sokha thought that HRP was fooled by Sam Rainsy. Kem Sokha then met the CPP to propose a participation in the government, but failed. Too many of “stains” in the relationship of the two parties explain why they will never become a perfect pair in the political arena.

    At present, despite the more-than-expected achievements of CNRP in the recent election, there is an internal separation and split between Sam Rainsy’s side and Kem Sokha’s. The main reason is that the two groups could not meet each other’s interest in the number of the seats in the National Assembly. Sam Rainsy’s team wanted to take more since in the previous election, SRP won 29 seats while HRP got only three. Before coming back to Cambodia while still living in exile in France, Sam Rainsy promised to share 50/50. However, back to the country, under the pressure of the members of SRP, Sam Rainsy demanded for more. The public is paying attention on how Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha will share the seats they have won and whether Sam Rainsy and SRP team accept the 50/50 proportion.

    Besides, the fund used for CNRP’s operation is also a cause of the conflict. When Sam Rainsy lived in exile, Kem Sokha was solely in charge of all the funds from overseas sponsorship and support for CNRP. Sam Rainsy’s group suspects that Kem Sokha and his team have embezzled the fund and demanded to make the financial issue clear. Kem Sokha’s team, in contrary, is dissatisfied as the salary of the “National Rescue” (CNRP’s mouthpiece) is divided into two levels: each of Sam Rainsy’s followers receives US$250 per month while each of Kem Sokha’s, just US$150.

    Currently, CNRP is also in the middle of the conflict when it comes to prolonging the time to form the National Assembly and the Government. Kem Sokha and HRP want to quickly negotiate with CPP to form the National Assembly. However, Sam Rainsy, now not eligible to be a voter or a candidate to the National Assembly, wants to prolong the formation until October 1, 2013. Probably, Sam Rainsy worries that the early formation of the National Assembly and the Government will not guarantee him a position higher that of Kem Sokha (according to the law, after October 1, 2013, the National Election Committee of Cambodia – NEC will conduct the registration of new 2013 voters. By then, Sam Rainsy will be eligible to become a voter and CNRP will make internal changes to recommend him as a member of the parliament). In fact, although there is a merger between HRP and SRP but the organizational structures and the positions are separated. It shows the conflict, distrust between the two. Both Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha have an ambition to become the next Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia.

    Currently, it is widely circulated that several CNRP members want to ostracise Kem Sokha as they believe that he was dominated and implanted to undermine CNRP from the inside. Kem Sokha’s supporters state that the rumor was fabricated by Sam Rainsy’s team to remove Kem Sokha./.