Law Programs on Cambodian Television

By Sun Narin

December 18, 2011

Law is for the country’s people to understand and implement, but as being noticed that the dissemination of legal information via broadcast media including televisions and radios are still on the limit. There are nine television stations in the Kingdom, but only three of which have been running regular and formal law programs for the audiences including Cambodian Television Network (CTN), Bayon television and SEATV. Despite the fact Cambodia has a lot radio stations, only few frequencies have been broadcasting law program like FM 102 of Women Media Center which has been processing one law program called Meakea law (Road of the law).

In addition, the frequency of hosting law programs has become the concerns since the program takes only 30 minutes once a week. It is comparatively far less than other countries. For example, law programs in China are conducted every day and it is one hour program. One more thing to be criticized is that Cambodian youths do not really watch those programs related to law.

According to the study on Youth Civic Participation in Cambodia: Knowledge, Attitudes, Practices and Media, showed that youths are highly likely to watch movies and concerts and songs rather than education programs which also cover legal issue. The study pointed out the rate of watching programs that: International TV film series (87%), Khmer series (65%), Concert/comedy (55%), song programs (48%), news (43%) (UNDP, 2010). On the contrary, only 1.9 of respondents says they watch education program (law, community) (UNDP 2010). The same study by UNDP revealed that six in ten young Cambodians (58%) are radio listeners and three-quarters (77%) are television viewers (UNDP, 2010). Nearly half (46%) consume both radio and television (UNDP, 2010).

Law programs in Cambodia on CTN and Bayon are in the form that the presenters and legal experts are discussing the legal issue and explain to the people. The experts deal with the questions being asked by the audience. However, SEATV is trying to create the other different aspects by including entertainment and comedy into the scene, according to Mr. Hout Sithan, the program producer. For example, the comedians perform in the show about a legal issue and then after the show, there is a legal aspect read to the people. However, the producer said that by 2012, he is going to change by letting the experts explain on the legal aspects after the show.

According to the study of law knowledge survey among Cambodian people aged from 17 up to 55-plus, the main source is of course television which is followed closely by radio. The traditional way of transmitting knowledge (teachers and authorities- the direct perusal of documents is actually minimal). 46.3 percent is for television, radio is for 39.6 percent teachers/authorities/document is 27.1 percent, newspaper is for 24.3 percent, friends and relatives is for 4.7 percent. However, the study shows that the participants aged from 17 to 24 accounting for 37.5 percent from teachers/authorities and documents a bit higher than television (35.4%).

As being noticed, in Khmer Language newspapers, they rarely write something focusing on law. English-language newspapers including the Phnom Penh Post and the Cambodia Daily focus on that. When a new draft law is processed, they always write about it and let experts comment on the bill or when the new law is passed, the newspaper covers it for the people to know. However, it is still the concern issue since it is not detailed about the law in the newspaper. One more thing, Cambodian people, especially youths do not have the habit of reading, especially reading newspaper.

It is true that youths nowadays want entertainment rather than something not entertainment. Therefore, question has been raised how people can be aware of law, understand and practice if media are not really active in broadcasting legal education to the people? What will happen in the society if youths do not know the law?

Some opponents may claim that there are a lot of published books and documents related to law. However, as found out that Cambodian people do not have the habit in reading (). One more thing, some terminology of the law written in the publication is not easily understandable to the readers. It should be simplified on the television and radio by the legal experts so that the viewers and listeners will be able to understand what have been presented.

Knowing or understanding particular “facts” about the legal system is not sufficient to enable young people to participate meaningfully in it. It is also necessary to demonstrate that they are able to use knowledge in a legally relevant manner in the context of thinking and making decisions about legal issues (Badali, Abramovitch & Duda 1997). Being aware of law makes people perform well in society (Kaugia, 2000).

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