According to Vicheika Kann, a young reporter of Voice of America (VOA) working in Cambodia and contacted via Facebook, some journalists in Cambodia use this career as a way to make extra money by publishing articles for profit. “When some reporters know about a scandal, they try to ask the source for money and if they get it, they don’t publish the story”, this 24 years old reporter said. “It is a reality! At least, some reporters in Cambodia do it, but not the majority. I think it is because of their low standard of living, the lack of appropriate salary from their media companies, and the lack of professional journalism training”.
Phoung says journalists in Cambodia often operate this way, and says journalists in Cambodia need better training. “Please bring us more professional journalism courses”, he said. Co-founder of the “2030 Youth Force” in Asia and the Pacific, Athika is a Cambodian youth representative, who has been invited to participate in the Case for Space conference organized by the United Nation from November 30th to December 2nd 2016 in Bangkok.
“In my country, we don’t have journalism faculties; we have only one Department of Media and Communication, a unique public institution, which provides trainings for around 20 students per year. Rather than working as reporters, most of the graduates prefer to work in public relations or in the film production industry”, he adds.
For Phoung, the result is that “in lots of news in the Cambodian media, there is a lack of professional skills, a lack of ethics, and sometimes reporters also express their emotions in their articles”.
CORRUPTION IN THE MEDIA
Like other national and international observers, these two young Cambodian reporters explain that the mass-media in their country is controlled by the government and private companies supporting the ruling party.
According to Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index for 2015, Cambodia is ranked 150 out of 175 for the most corrupt nations. For the corruption in media, Cambodia also fares poorly.
“In Cambodia, the corruption in media can take different forms” – explained Preap Kol, executive director of Transparency International Cambodia (TIC) who was contacted by the “Case4Space Youth Newsroom”. “There are mainly three scenarios”, Mr. Kol said. “Some journalists Cambodians receive money, gifts or incentives from businessmen or politicians which influence the way they write articles. Or they extort money in exchange for not publishing controversial articles, or can manipulate facts and write in support or against certain political parties like in the case of biased media”. For the executive director of TIC, publishing false information or biased news by corrupt media or journalists can be harmful to the society and compromise the ability to promote transparent and accountable government.
In collaboration with UNESCO Phnom Penh, a specific committee under the Ministry of Information is currently working on an Access to Information law (A2I). According to Anne Lemaistre, representative of Unesco Phnom Penh, the draft of the law will be finished next year. But some Cambodian journalists and human rights defenders are concerned that the “state secret” law and “cybercrime” law announced by the government will continue to block the right to know and to access information.
For Kann, the corruption also has a negative impact on how the readers or the audience see the media. They cannot trust the news; they don’t have confidence in journalists anymore or in the information that could change the society. Sometimes, the audience cannot see the difference between real news from fake news. Moreover, people don’t respect journalists, they often look down on them and devalue them.
“I never paid any Riels (Cambodian currency) to a source or to get information,” Kann said. She usually tries hard to reach the source and convince the person to give her an interview. “If it doesn’t work, I directly change my source or the topic,” she added.
RISKS AND CHALLENGES FACED BY JOURNALISTS
Kann has been working as reporter for online TV and media for three years. During that time, like many other Cambodians, her family considered journalism to be dangerous work. From the beginning, they disagreed with her choice to be journalist. She remembers her father asking her to quit the job but she wanted to be an independent woman and tried hard to convince her family to let her do this job.
In Cambodia, journalists who strongly criticise issues such as deforestation or corruption can be risking their lifes. Some of them were killed and some received death threats. Those dangers are faced by commentators as well. In July this year, Dr. Kem Ley, a prominent political commentator who frequently criticized the government, was killed in Phnom Penh. A full investigation of his case hasn’t been conducted yet. Many observers – among them UN Special Rapporteur Maina Kiai – condemned what many think to be a politically motivated crime. Since 2015, Cambodia has seen also around 10 cases of citizen journalists or social media users being arrested and sentenced for their critical writing.
Kann also sees her security as her biggest challenge as a journalist in Cambodia. Another issue in her view is the none response from the source and the fact that she sometimes isn’t invited to cover events, while pro-government reporters are encouraged to attend. Phung says she has had similar experiences. “The government spokespeople sometimes don’t do their job. It’s quite difficult to access information from the public sector”.
(Copyright: UNESCO/Oudom HENG— this content was first published as part of the Youth Newsroom of the Regional Roundtable “Youth at the Heart of the Agenda 2030: The Case for Space” here:http://www.case4space.org/newsroom)