Cambodian Journalism Review

Media Should Balance Nationalism With Professionalism
July 15, 2008, 2:52 am
Filed under: Khmer Press


Media Should Balance Nationalism With Professionalism

By Moeun Chhean Nariddh

The Cambodia Daily, Tuesday, July 15, 2008


s Cambodia celebrates the inscription of Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage Site, Cambodians seemed to reach a moment of national unity in the midst of the month-long election campaign that divides their political beliefs.

From street vendors to university students, civil society groups, government officials and politicians, they have one thing in common: national pride over the temple successful listing.

However, probably few people have noticed the role the Cambodian media have played in promoting nationalism and the campaigning for international recognition of Preah Vihear temple as a world patrimony.

The Cambodian media began their engagement in the efforts last month when some local media professionals celebrated the 46th anniversary of the ruling by the International Court of Justice that awarded Preah Vihear temple to Cambodia over Thailand.

As Cambodia’s move to push for the inscription of the temple as a World Heritage site gained momentum, so thus Cambodian media’s coverage on the issue. Different Khmer-language media have come up with various stories and headlines that indicated both nationalism and professionalism on the progress of the temple listing.

While the media’s contribution and efforts to promote nationalism and national unity deserves much appreciation, they should be cautious and avoid going beyond the limit that can lead to ultra-nationalism and racial discrimination and hatred.

During the period leading up to the inscription of Preah Vihear temple, there was great concern about the reoccurrence of the 2003 anti-Thai riots in which the Thai Embassy and businesses were ransacked. Though the real motive behind the riots is unclear, many believed that it was the media that had aroused this ultra-nationalistic sentiment which resulted in the regrettable violence.

Nevertheless, the media’s role in promoting nationalism is not new. The pioneers of Cambodian media started the first Khmer-language newspaper in 1936 with the explicit mission to promote nationalism and engage in Cambodia’s struggle for independence from French colonial rule.

Since then, Cambodian nationalistic press had appeared one after another to challenge the French rule, the Chinese and Vietnamese dominance in Cambodian economy and politics, and the American “imperialism” until the Khmer Rouge came to power in 1975.

Cambodia’s media were wiped out by the ultra-communist Khmer Rouge along with all private media professionals and other intellectuals during its four-year reign of terror.

A private nationalistic press resurfaced against after democracy and free press were introduced to Cambodia in the early 1990s. The issue of nationalism has also emerged during the election campaigns with regards to Cambodia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

The inscription of Preah Vihear temple has put the Cambodian media in the spotlight on how they juggle professionalism and nationalism.

Unlike their predecessors, Cambodia’s media today are guided by clear professional values and principles enshrined in the journalistic code of ethics. By applying these ethical rules, Cambodia’s media can fulfill the demands of both professionalism and nationalism without unnecessarily provoking ultra-nationalistic fervor and racial hatred.


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