An opposition-affiliated television station is set to hit the airwaves by year end in Cambodia, opposition leader Sam Rainsy said Thursday, as part of a deal reached in July between his Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) and Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP).
The government agreed to grant television and radio station licenses to the CNRP as part of a July 22, 2014 pact that ended a standoff between the two parties following disputed elections a year earlier.
Sam Rainsy told RFA’s Khmer Service that the soon-to-launch television station, called The Sun, will be an independent media outlet “that favors the CNRP” but is not controlled by the opposition.
“The CNRP doesn’t own the station—it will be managed by a private company … [which] supports the CNRP, but doesn’t serve the party,” he said.
“The company will begin operating within five to six months and is working to launch the TV station before the end of this year.”
All stations currently operating in Cambodia are either directly or indirectly controlled by the government or ruling party.
Sam Rainsy said the company is hoping to raise U.S. $3 million through shares it is selling for U.S. $1,000 each, and urged supporters of free media to contribute to its funding.
“People need unbiased and accurate news so that they can make their own decisions,” he said of The Sun’s intended content.
“The TV channel will also focus on education that benefits the public.”
Sam Rainsy said the station had not considered advertising, as “we aren’t focusing on earning money,” but emphasized that in any case it would not broadcast commercials for alcohol or tobacco products.
He did not elaborate on how the station intends to fund its programming.
The opposition leader said The Sun would also allow other political parties and nongovernmental organizations to use its airtime.
In November, the government gave the final nod to the CNRP to operate a radio station and broadcast throughout Cambodia as part of the July deal, which also saw the CPP agree to sweeping poll reforms after the country’s electoral body declared the ruling party victor of the 2013 election, despite claims of widespread irregularities.
At the time, the government wanted the CNRP to wait until Cambodia's official National Television of Kampuchea (TVK) switched from analog to digital television broadcasting before setting up a station, but Sam Rainsy expressed concern that the process would take too long.
The Ministry of Information had said there were no longer analog licenses available, but Sam Rainsy pointed out that certain companies which were granted the licenses had not actually used them to set up stations, and said the CNRP could potentially use one of those to broadcast.
Sam Rainsy said at the time that the CNRP was not considering setting up a newspaper and would rather use Facebook and other social media sites to draw additional supporters.
Ahead of the July agreement, Hun Sen agreed to grant the opposition a television license, but said the CNRP would not be permitted to use its party logo for its station and would have to acquire its license through a private company.
Reported by Chun Chanboth for RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.