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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - In the driver's seat: what we've learned in our year making this magazine

In the driver's seat: what we've learned in our year making this magazine

Imagine living in a remote place like Rattanakiri, where you have no internet, TV, radio or any kind of information source.

Most people who live in the city or big towns have access to news via the internet or another forms of media.  But there are still plenty of Cambodians who do not have those choices as a result of poverty or accessibility. The poor are more concerned about their families, making money, having food for their children and other basic needs. If you did not know where the next meal was coming from or how you were going to pay your rent, you would not be interested in reading newspapers or finding out what the government’s new policies were. People in rural areas face great difficulties getting information. Not many newspapers or magazines are sold in rural areas and some people do not have a TV, leaving them highly uninformed.

More importantly, most local media are not doing a good job of informing people. Not many people are well informed by Cambodian TV shows or radio. Most of the TV channels and radio stations are pro-ruling party and some are owned by government officials or their families. They are mostly commercial stations and do not provide much news. We do not get much important information on TV or radio other than beer or cigarette advertising, Korean and American pop songs or positive things the government does. The question is how can we change that? Well, there are ways to improve the media here.

The government should work harder to promote the media and make it more accessible. Instead of running ads or foreign pop songs, TV and radio stations could try to broadcast more educational programmes such as a series of films and shows as part of the “No is No” campaign.

I never really thought about being a journalist when I was in high school. I guess the idea never occurred to me. People would value finance, engineering and economics as vital factors to the development of this country, but journalism was hardly ever mentioned. Only when I became involved in the media through school and work did I realise the impact of journalism in our country. To discuss how journalism can help Cambodia, it is necessary to understand its role – to educate, entertain and inform.
With the literacy rate still low, Cambodia needs to make education available through a more accessible form – the media. By watching television, listening to the radio and reading newspapers, Cambodians can learn about new discoveries in technology, health and more. It is safe to say that through widespread media coverage, many people now know how to protect themselves against the infamous bird flu H5N1, they are aware of the options for birth control and most have heard of the internet, but don’t know how to use it.

Through entertainment, media brings cross-culture understanding via movies, songs and stories from around the world. Sometimes it is just about helping a tired mind relax after another day at work. Probably the most influential role of journalism is to inform. Media is considered to be the fourth estate, a watchdog over the government.

Sydney Schanberg and Dith Pran were two journalists who chose to remain in Phnom Penh so the world would know the real situation in Cambodia in the 1970s. People need information to make the right decisions, especially in a country that follows democracy like Cambodia.

That is why journalism is important to Cambodia’s development. And that is why I want to contribute to my country through journalism.

Even though I now understand that exhaustion and frustration go along with being a journalist in the Kingdom, the crucial role that journalism will play in the future development of my country always inspires me to stick with it and work harder. Not only do I have the ability and opportunity to challenge myself to learn new things and meet fascinating new people, I can take the information from these experiences and pass them on to the rest of our country, where accurate news can be hard to come by.
Everyone meets strangers, but journalists have the unique ability to choose which stranger they want to engage, whether a high ranking government official or rice farmer in the provinces, and talk to them about the world, their lives, or whatever. The experiences journalists have are wide reaching. One day you might attend fancy, exclusive events, openings and conferences in the city, and then the next day you are travelling to rural areas to tell a story about life in the countryside that no one else is telling.

These are the things that I experience that you won’t, but all Cambodians know that there are also a number of risks in being a journalist. But, while many Cambodians entering the workforce seem to want a safe, comfortable job, I don’t. I rather enjoy the challenging and risky environment often faced by a journalist, and I consider it a shame that I have yet to witness first hand any major event. While tragedies and disasters are a horrible thing, being the eyes and ears for everyone who wasn’t there is vitally important to understanding what happened and learning from it.

I am sure there are plenty of other great reporters out there, but I don’t think I will ever be able to just sit back and read other people’s explanations about what is happening around me. I need to go out there and see it for myself so that I can dig out the truth and bring new discoveries to the attention of my audience.

Last but not least, I am enjoying being a journalist and I quite like the idea of spending my life travelling to fascinating places and meeting interesting people. It may not make me rich, but for the time being, it makes me happy, and that’s enough for now.

A number of people, in my opinion, would not agree that working as a reporter for a newspaper is interesting and fun. But if you like what you do, you will be proud because you have an interesting job where you can meet and talk to a lot of people starting from the grassroots level up to high-ranking officials.
I have been working for Lift Magazine for nearly half a year while I study media management at the Department of Media and Communication, Royal University of Phnom Penh. As a young reporter with little experience working as a journalist, I have had some unusual difficulties.

A source to give me information is the most important thing for me. It really makes my job hard if my source refuses to talk to me or I cannot find a person who dares to talk to me. To be honest, I often find high-ranking officials the most difficult people to interview, but not all of them. They are always busy and do not want to give information to a journalist.

I often say my story will not be good without their input since they are highly aware of a specific issue. I am also busy with my academic work, so time is also a challenge.

Sometimes when I have to finish a story for my editor I rush to complete the story, but then I feel that the story is not good for the readers. And sometimes I am just a procrastinator.

Also, finding an interesting topic for our readers can sometimes be a bit difficult for me. Language is also a problem for me because I write my stories in English, which is not my native tongue.

News is very important for people – it keeps them updated with what’s happening or going to happen in their area and around the world. These days Cambodians can get their news on the internet, which provides both local and international news.
They can get a variety of news on the internet, some of it written by professionals and some by those who simply created a website or blog. If you cannot read English, don’t worry. You can still follow the daily news on the internet through an increasing number of Khmer websites and blogs. The news varies from lifestyle stories to political discussions, and everyone can have their voice heard.

Most people think the internet is a totally free world since anyone can write or post something for others to read. However, it is not free when a government tries to censor the internet and restrict the information. In Burma, according to the Wikipedia website, the military government restricts internet access through software-based censorship which limits the material citizens can access and it blocks some websites.

Will this happen in Cambodia?
As far as I know, there aren’t any websites blocked by the Cambodian government, so we are able to read things critical of the government like KI-media. However, the Cambodian Center for Human Rights said on December 17 that it was concerned government officials were going to start censoring websites after a report by Radio Free Asia that Var Kimhong, Cambodia’s senior minister in charge of border affairs, had spoken out against KI-media: “I asked the government to shut down this website on December 31,” he said.

If the government starts censoring internet content, it would.

Do you think journalism is a crucial factor in the success of Cambodia’s future? Share your ideas at angkorone.com/lift or facebook.com/liftcambodia. We look forward to hearing from you!

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