Friday, 11 July 2014

Tiny But Deadly Media

“We've done so much for the country, but we did not do a good job to provide information to the people.”

Minister of Commerce Sun Chantol, 23 January 2014

“I can tell you, as a lawyer, these Cambodian media, if they were in Singapore they would be sued and broke and financially ruined already—I mean if they were in Singapore. In Cambodia, there is so much freedom it is unbelievable, so we are all a victim of this fourth power.”

Government adviser Sok Siphana, 21 February, 2014

“Cambodian reporters going to cover any event now, they are very careful, especially at demonstrations.… There are no clear instructions from politicians, leaders, authorities and political parties, [so] sometimes journalists get hurt,” he said.

Board member of the Cambodian Club of Journalists Puy Kea, 12 February, 2014

After all these years, the CPP wakes up to the fact that they have not told the public what they have been up to, and that they now must. The admission is astonishing, given the fact that a large chunk of the media is either under the CPP control or leaning towards the party. At the last count, there are 19 TV stations, 75 radio stations, and a dozen main newspapers throughout the country. Their reach is enormous.

What has this large media chunk been doing, though? Whatever it is, it has done enough to capture only half of voters, assuming of course the July 2013 election outcome is valid and reliable. The other half seems to tune in to a tiny chunk of the media that must be doing something else quite different to attract it, like keeping their audience well informed of what the CPP has done to the country.

This tiny media chunk has been a constant source of annoyance to the CPP to the extent that some regard it as a sole representative of the fourth power after legislative, executive, and judiciary. The government adviser must be so impressed with the freedom Cambodian reporters enjoy that he may not be aware the Reporters Without Border ranks Cambodia 144 out of 180 in their world press freedom index 2014. It appears a relief that the Cambodian reporters are not subject to lawsuits like their counterparts in Singapore. However, some are indiscriminately beaten up at recent public demonstrations. They have just to be careful when covering issues the large media chunk deems sensitive. Eleven journalists have been murdered since 1994, the latest one was in February this year in Kampong Chhnang.

Nonetheless, now that the CPP – according to Minister Sun Chanthol – is determined to make a full use of the media, including Facebook and YouTube, one can look forward to the large media chunk disclosing information that it has not done before to wipe out the essence and relevance of the tiny media chunk. That would be a civilised way for the CPP to extend their grip on all the four powers, without killing off recalcitrant journalists or putting them under self-censorship.

Ung Bun Ang


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