September 11, 2014

Opinion: Radio Free Asia does an unsuccessful hatchet job


By Allen Myers, September 11, 2014
The Cambodia Herald

Is Sam Rainsy the leader of the opposition in the Cambodian National Assembly, or is he the head of the Khmer-language section of Radio Free Asia? If the question strikes you as strange, then you haven’t been following RFA’s Khmer-language broadcasts, and the connection will be explained after a few other necessary points are dealt with.

On 29 August, RFA broadcast what is known in Western journalism as a “hatchet job” – that is, an article designed to discredit the person or organisation that is its subject.

Of course, there are some people or things that deserve to be discredited. But responsible journalists make sure that’s what they are dealing with before they produce a hatchet job. Equally important, they make sure to present facts that justify the attempt to discredit whoever or whatever it is.

RFA is not a home to responsible journalism. Its 29 August broadcast consisted of more than eight minutes (four pages in the transcript) of broad-brush abuse against the Cambodian Red Cross. It seldom even made a pretence of presenting anything that could be called a fact; it was almost entirely nothing but vicious name-calling (available in Khmer at http://www.rfa.org/khmer/news/politics/Cambodian-Red-Cross-under-political-interference-08292014103131.html).

The quality of RFA’s pretend journalism is revealed right from the start. The headline is “Cambodian Red Cross under political influence”. The phrase is in quotation marks, which means that somebody said it. Who? In reality, probably no one, unless the “journalist” was quoting himself. The phrase doesn’t appear in the broadcast; the quotation marks are there to fool the unwary into thinking that the RFA’s political hatchet job is what some knowledgeable person said.

According to the broadcast, while most Cambodians may think that the CRC is engaged in helping people suffering from natural disasters or armed conflict, its real role is to distribute funds to Cambodian People’s Party supporters in the provinces and to launder illegally gained money.

Are there any examples of where this happened? None are provided. Is there any evidence that this may have happened somewhere, if we could find out where that somewhere was? No, only the claim that “observers” say this happens. Who are these “observers”? How good is their eyesight? Good questions – but they aren’t answered by the RFA broadcast, except with a further fraud on the listener, and a possible abuse of the “observers” as well.

WHO SAID WHAT?

Only two identifiable people are quoted in the broadcast. They are Sok Touch, a political scientist who is the rector of Khemarak University and is regularly quoted by RFA whenever a story needs something critical of the government, and Kem Ley, described in the broadcast as a “researcher in social development” – which seems to downplay his full title, “Principal Investigator in the Social Development Research, Advance Research Consultant Team” of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, as he is described on the CCHR’s website.

While both are critical of aspects of the CRC, neither is quoted as saying anything that supports the serious charges broadcast by RFA. Kem Ley says there should be more transparency in CRC finances and that wives of politicians shouldn’t be involved in the Red Cross. Sok Touch is quoted as saying that the CRC may be “a little” influenced by politics; he offers no specifics of how this occurs.

So RFA creates an awkward situation for its two sources. Many listeners – perhaps most of them – hearing RFA’s charges and hearing only two names, will come away with the impression that the two named individuals are the source of the accusations.

That may be true, but it seems unlikely. If actual words supporting his charges had been available to the hatchet-wielder, presumably he would have used them. Since only unnamed “observers” are cited as evidence for his attacks, it seems that he has committed a fraud on Kem Ley and Sok Touch as well as on the listeners.

MADE-UP ‛FACTS’

Consisting of little but unsupported slanders, this RFA broadcast in itself is not really worthy of any attention. But in a larger picture, it may be worthwhile to consider what it tells us about RFA’s journalistic standards and its involvement in Cambodian politics.

For instance, the broadcast reveals that RFA is quite happy to invent “facts”. It begins by saying that the Red Cross is an organisation for “helping victims and poor people and helping to guard human health”. Knowing that this was untrue, RFA’s hatchet-wielder said that this is what “most people” think, but that was a deliberate evasion: nothing in the broadcast attempted to correct this alleged belief.

In reality, the International Committee of the Red Cross was set up specifically to assist victims of armed conflicts, not “victims” in general – the Red Cross is not patrolling highways, waiting to rush people injured in traffic accidents to the nearest hospital. Aside from its official missions in regard to armed conflicts, the ICRC and its national branches have also expanded into helping victims of natural disasters such as floods and earthquakes, who often need medical assistance. But that’s all. The ICRC is not the beginning of a world government.

Poor people may be more likely than rich people to suffer from war, but there is no ICRC mission to help poor people simply because they are poor. The Red Cross is not an organisation for poverty alleviation. That notion is simply made up by RFA’s Hatchet Man. The reason for this falsification? So that he can attack the Cambodian Red Cross for not aiding “poor people”, as he pretends it’s supposed to do!

More than that, Hatchet Man attacks the CRC for not aiding striking workers or people involved in land disputes – activities that have nothing at all to do with the Red Cross mission. I expect an RFA follow-up to condemn the CRC for not providing accurate weather forecasts.

Perhaps the most revealing aspect of the broadcast is its assertion that no Cambodian who assists the Red Cross to relieve distress does so out of human solidarity. The broadcast actually says that Cambodian business people who donate to the CRC are engaged in “illegal” businesses. It doesn’t mention any possible exceptions, so all business people who have given large enough donations to get a picture on the CRC website are criminals in the view of RFA.

And RFA doesn’t have a much more favourable view of ordinary Cambodians who donate. According to the broadcast, they are all just trying to curry favour with their superiors, who of course are part of the CRC money-laundering network.

This sort of nonsense doesn’t tell you much about Cambodia, but it tells you worlds about RFA. Clearly, RFA can’t conceive of the possibility of real human solidarity – of anyone, rich or poor, providing assistance to someone less fortunate unless they expect to get a greater return for it.

And why should that organisation think anything else? It was explicitly established to be a mouthpiece of the US government and is funded and directed in that spirit. Its broadcasts are designed, not to present reality, but to convince listeners of whatever the US government would like them to think: RFA employees are supposed to say whatever their paymasters want them to say. And eventually the organisation comes to think that the whole world operates on the same cynical basis that it does.

SOUND FAMILIAR?

If some of the RFA nonsense sounds familiar, it may be because RFA isn’t the first to say it. Three months ago, CNRP leader Sam Rainsy got a bit of coverage in sympathetic media by writing to the president of the ICRC, complaining that the CRC was doing nothing about “the plight of hundreds of thousands of Cambodian victims of land confiscations and brutal evictions currently taking place daily in Cambodia”.

RFA isn’t quite silly enough to repeat Sam Rainsy’s exaggerated rhetoric, but it essentially repeats and adds to the latter’s complaint that the CRC isn’t doing things it was never meant to do.

I will not repeat here my criticism of Rainsy’s version of the nonsense (available at http://letters2pppapers.wordpress.com/2014/06/05/sam-rainsy-seeks-another-international-patron/). The point is that these two organisations, RFA and the CNRP, seem agreed on attacking the Cambodian Red Cross in a similarly dishonest manner.

It makes you wonder if they have anything else in common.

9 comments:

... said...

Who is Allen Myers? What is his personal interest to put this kind of writing to attack RFA? Who is stopping the Cambodian Red Cross from coming on RFA to defend the Cambodian Red Cross's reputation? If Sam Rainsy, Kim Sokha, and Kem Ley and Sok Touch can be on RFA to explain their position and who is stopping Bun Rany Hun Sen who is the head of Cambodian Red Cross to come on RFA to discuss what is the real mission of the Cambodian Red Cross? Why Allen Myers speak for the Cambodian Red Cross? Cambodian Red Cross doesn't need Allen Myers as a spoken person because Bun Rany Hun Sen can speak for herself!

This article confused me as hell. I don't know what the hell Allen Myers is talking about! Does he talk about CRC(Cambodian Red Cross, RC(Red Cross) or ICRC(International Committee of the Red Cross)? Which one? If the Cambodian Red Cross operates base on Party line and it is only right that the experts can point that out. It is not a mystery that Cambodian Red Cross operated base on Party line and there are pictures and documentations of the Cambodian Red Cross behaves as such. If Allen Myers refused to see the facts and nobody can help him.

ជូលាងហាក់ said...

Sounds like Mr. Allen Meyers from Cambodia Herald can read and speak Khmer language well. It would be quite helpful then for this gentleman to try once again to rewrite his column, or interpret it, in Khmer language.

And I would spend time reading it in an attempt to catch his logical point of view in this notorious case of power abuse. Revealing purpose of his diligence in voicing his concern over this particular matter would also be interesting.

Of this case, I hope Mr. Meyers would do his utmost to send in his logical analysis in Khmer to this and other website - to RFA in particular. This discourse will definitely shed more light to our mind.

Chou Leang Hak

...

Jendhamuni said...


Mr. Leang Hak Chou,

I don't believe he works for The Cambodia Herald. This is the letter to Editor, under 'opinion' section. I read his website. He said he's been writing letters to editors [both The Phnom Penh Post and The Cambodia Herald' many years already. He created his site to post his opinion because his letters to editors usually got edited, or shortened.

~Jendhamuni

Unknown said...

Jendhamuni,

I agreed with what you said as I don't usually see Allen Meyers's column appeared in The Cambodia Herald, but it was just a letter to editor.

Allen Meyers is pro-government,and he may live in Cambodia for many years. It's just my opinion, however.

Jendhamuni said...


Dear Entertainment Blog,

This is the link on his site about him:
http://letters2pppapers.wordpress.com/about/

And this is a blurb from this 'About' page:

About (updated)
I started this blog after more than a decade of writing two or three letters a year to one or both of the Phnom Penh English-language newspapers, the Phnom Penh Post and Cambodia Daily. This could be a frustrating experience even when the letters were published if a subeditor decided to shorten a letter by cutting out the central argument. More recently, I have noticed what appears to be an increasing tendency for the papers to ignore my letters when they criticise some aspect of their coverage or disagree with their editorial line on a controversial topic...

Correction on my previous comment: Allen Meyers said he used to write to The Phnom Penh Post and The Cambodia Daily, not The Cambodia Herald.

~Jendhamuni


ជូលាងហាក់ said...

Thanks Jendha,

What compels Mr. Meyers to get involved in the Khmer affair is the first question I'd like to ask. And I'd wonder does he have friends in the political party the CPP or even a relationship with a woman related to someone in that party? Knowing a little background of the man would help us to balance his view whether he's neutral or lop-sided mentally.

Kmenhwatt said...

Allen Myers was a pro communist regime [Pol pot] the author of the book called VIETNAM REVOLUTION AND LEADERSHIP and the Hanoi's scumbag who hated khmer's democracy he come from Australia I believed and hang around with Phnom Penh post.

He was a Maoism sympathizer and Ho Nguyen Van Gaip known as Ho Chi Minh today,so don't be surprise to hear the useless words come out of the mouth of communist's sympathizer's dog like Allen Myers to protect its clans.




Robert Nancy said...

He just need money for surviving
with his girl friend in Cambodia.
He is a cheap man as well as others who sold their head to devil communist for living only.
So, the wise wise men never listen or bring attention to these kind of people.

Unknown said...

He is a drunken men in Cambodia.