Cambodian Journalism Review


Cambodian Journalists Still Face More Challenges
October 15, 2011, 3:00 am
Filed under: Commentary

Cambodian Journalists Still Face More Challenges

Moeun Chhean Nariddh’s Letter to the editor, The Phnom Penh Post Khmer, 14 October 2011

 

Dear editor,

I am very interested in reading about the assessment by the Phnom Penh Post’s Publisher of the media situation in Cambodia in the article “The Post: Society Looking Glass,” October 11.

First, I must congratulate the Post on its turning point to make profits in the media business in Cambodia after four years of heavy losses.

The Post’s success has proved that it is not only a professional newspaper, but it also has a sound business strategy to win the support of readers and advertisers in Cambodia’s competitive media business environment.

However, not many Cambodian newspapers have been as successful. Regardless of their sizes, only a handful of the 398 newspapers registered at the Ministry of Information have become relatively successful and been able to continue their publications. Hundreds of other newspapers became bankrupt less than a year into the media business.

These newspapers had two common problems: the quality of their news products was not good enough to compete in the free marketplace of ideas, and/or they could not endure losses long enough to see the tide turn around.

Second, I am afraid to disagree with the Publisher’s assertion that Cambodia has the freest media market in Asia. Let alone Japan and South Korea which have the healthiest democracy and free press, many other countries in the region like India, the Philippines, Indonesia and Thailand have actually taken the lead in the media business.

While Cambodia’s print media seem to have enjoyed a lot of freedoms, the broadcast media are not as lucky. These electronic media, particularly TVs, are under a tight control of the government.

We are glad that the Post has managed to avoid both physical and legal harassment due to its high professional standard and better privilege as a foreign-owned newspaper. But, other Khmer-language newspapers have not been able to practice the media professions free from fear of legal prosecutions and physical harassment.

Between 2005 and 2009, Internews Network and the Cambodia Institute for Media Studies had conducted a series of training workshops for Cambodian journalists on investigative reporting skills. Less than half of nearly 200 stories produced by the journalists we trained and mentored were able to be published. Other stories ended up in the trash bins.

The stories that couldn’t find a space in the newspapers were too sensitive as they implicated powerful officials and rich business men in corruption, land disputes, illegal loggings or other wrongdoings.

Other stories could not be published, because the people or businesses under investigation were the main advertisers in the newspapers, while the rest of the stories lacked sufficient evidence to prove the allegations due to the lack of access to information.

Nevertheless, we still hope that the media environment will turn for the better as Cambodian journalists continue to push the limits of their freedoms and promote their professional standards.

 

Moeun Chhean Nariddh

Director

Cambodia Institute for Media Studies

Phnom Penh

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