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Citizens taking news into their own hands

Citizens taking news into their own hands

More than 80 reporters and citizen journalists from across 23 provinces met in in Phnom Penh yesterday to discuss how citizen journalists can circumvent government-dominated media in Cambodia by writing and sharing information on human rights and other issues.

The event, organised by the Cambodian Centre for Independent Media (CCIM) and the Community Legal Education Center (CLEC), was intended to help develop a network of citizen journalists that could share information and help uncover issues such as land disputes in far-flung areas, said CLEC relations officer Srey Sophak.

“This meeting between reporters, community journalists, social analysts and human rights workers will create a network to share information on human rights situations in their communities,” he said.

Mob Chhing, a CCIM citizen journalist from Ratanakkiri, said people in her community did not have proper access to information. She participated in training sessions to become a citizen journalist and eventually shared news at community meetings and through Facebook, despite many challenges.

“I have gone to cover land disputes, human rights abuses, domestic violence, and when I went to cover these issues, the community did not seem to trust it, and the authorities and criminals have threatened me,” she said. “But the more they threaten, the more I struggle [to report] for the whole community.”

According to a press release from CCIM and CLEC, because of the influence of the government on Khmer-language media, citizen journalists have been going it alone and are changing the media scene by covering often unreported news directly from their own communities.

These citizen journalists come from many walks of life – they range from factory workers and residents to human rights activists and indigenous people, Sophak said.

Participation in the news process is vital in a society where most news comes from Phnom Penh, said Lao Mong Hay, an independent social analyst who spoke at the workshop.

“With community journalists, news will be gathered directly from the provinces and districts,” he said.

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