Cambodia, CNRP, TV station, political reform, Sorn Sarath

Cambodia’s opposition party, the CNRP, launched its first online TV station this week.

The station, CNRP TV, is described as a “test” of the country’s political reform.

A farmer affected by flooding in Battambong province appeals for help on TV as part of the news program in CNRP TV.

CNRP Director of Public Affairs, Mu Sochua, says they want to give voice to ordinary people.

“We want to use this online TV as an online stage, a platform, a place where people can express their opinion.  We are going to invite guests,” Mu Sochua explains.

“It’s not just for our party,” she assures,”But it’s also opening space for freedom of expression, for democracy. And it seems like a market for people who want to have their voice, their faces on TV.”

“It’s a good beginning.”

CNRP TV features several news programs, which include the activities of party leaders and political talk shows.

Mu Sochua says they want to target a new audience: the young generation.

“Young people have access to the internet. And internet is very cheap in Cambodia. So we’re going online for TV as a way to reach out and maintain the opposition party’s popularity.

26-year-old Socheat Lach is a law student at university in Phnom Penh.

He says the local media does not broadcast information about what is really going on in Cambodia.

“For example, Khmer TV does not broadcast information about workers who go on strike. I have to watch it on foreign media instead.”

“It’s stated in the law that people have the right to access information, but we don’t.”

Recently, thousands of garment workers went on strike, protesting against low pay and demanding better working conditions.

They were from factories which made clothes for GAP, H&M and other international brands.

Cambodian riot police used sticks, tear gas and guns to break up the strike. One woman was killed and more than 30 protestors and police officers were injured during the clashes.

None of the government-sponsored TV and radio stations broadcast the protest.

But Mu Sochua from CNRP TV says it went online on immediately.

“These stations don’t show strike workers like today. The police just shot and kill and wounded workers who went on strike and killed a woman. You don’t see this on TV, you don’t hear this on state radio. But at the same time you have people on the streets filming, reporting and recording what was going on on the street today.”

“It’s on Facebook right now,” Mu Sochua says.

The opposition party has requested permission for its own free-to-air TV license.

But the government argues that TV licenses are not given to political parties, says spokesperson Phay Siphan.

“They have the rights to do everything, to campaign down to the community, to grass root. But we don’t want to fight on air all the time.”

But the country’s nine free-to-air TV stations are either controlled by, or aligned with, the Prime Minister Hun Sen or the ruling CPP.

The list includes Bayon TV, owned by Hun Sen’s daughter, Hun Mana.

Many believe they are biased towards the CPP and the Prime Minister’s family.

But the growing number of internet users in the country is changing political trends too says political analyst Kem Ley.

“Those who will benefit are people who have more and more information. In the past they only got it from the CPP media. But now CNRP has an online TV station, people can hear the other side.”


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