FOLLOWING the "Gecko" piece in your May 17 - May 30 issue, I can now reveal
that a further top secret document has been leaked to me, which I wish to bring to
the attention of your readers. Entitled the "Typical English Language Newspaper
(TELN) Briefing for Super Hacks on International Travel (S.H.I.T.s), it is believed
to be issued to all would-be TELN journos on arrival at the bar at FCC as essential
guidelines for their sojourn in Cambodia. Authorship is unknown, but rumor has it
that this copy came to light when it dropped from the pocket of a well-known local
newspaper publisher while making his escape in an alcoholic ganja-induced haze from
a brothel just down the road from the Heart of Darkness.
It runs as follows:
- Finding a job in Cambodia is straightforward for foreign journalists. Just go
down to your local TELN and you will immediately be offered a position on the basis
of your three weeks' teaching English in Bongo-Bongo-land, or your one-day course
in creative writing at Parramatta College. More lucrative positions with international
news agencies depend on your willingness to sell either your soul or your body.
- Becoming an editor is also no problem. As long as you are a Westerner and speak
a modicum of English with whatever accent, you are guaranteed the title of "Editor"
(it is of course TELN policy to reserve editorial positions for foreigners). After
long service (over three weeks) you can choose your own job title. An added qualification
is that you should not be able to spell any word of more than three letters.
- TELN has a general policy of employing Cambodian staff, to show that we are doing
something for the country. TELN treats Cambodian staff as equals in every respect,
except for certain very minor contractual differences such as editorial positions,
mobile phones etc which are reserved for foreign journos. To benefit Khmer journalists,
TELN designates them all as trainees so that they can be given the boring stories
that no-on else wants to cover, or makes them into translators so that we can steal
stories from the Khmer press. If they have any talent we will send them in to do
all the donkey work, but we will always ensure that you get to write up the final
story so that it has your by-line.
- You will of course live very simply just like the Cambodians - except for the
slight comforts that go with your status as an international correspondent, such
as villa, air-conditioning, personal computer, photocopier, fax and several mobile
phones etc etc, as well as those essential all expenses paid trips to exotic locations.
- Certain jobs are reserved for journalists of different nationalities. The French
are in charge of writing interesting features on the nature, flora and fauna of their
colonies and the history of Sihanouk's relations with the Empire. The Americans,
since they are the specialists on Cam-bodia's recent history and wars (after all,
they started most of them) are in charge of pontificating at great length about politics,
the cracks in the coalition and how 'democracy' is under threat. Antipodeans on the
other hand, when not defending their fellow countrymen from allegations of pedophilia,
get the in-depth stories on government corruption and Sihanouk's latest illnesses.
Scandinavians are fortunately now confined to business stories and anything which
requires a winning smile but no writing talent whatsoever. Khmers of course get whatever
is left over, but if it turns out to be a good story they are allowed the added kudos
of sharing the credit with our esteemed foreign hacks through a joint by-line.
- If you have to write about NGOs, be sure that you only feature financial scandals
or stories about how much money they waste, or other controversial issues. On no
account should you write about any of their achievements or give them any praise.
Make sure you write plenty of stuff about how they are all eccentric corrupt left-wing
vegetarians or religious nuts living in huge villas and riding around in Mercedes
with personal computers and mobile phones - after all, it's all true, you read it
in the newspaper!
- Be careful about rumors about foreign pedophiles: if you do any stories about
them, make sure that you see things from their point of view (these are Cambodian
children after all, not ours) and give plenty of space for their views and letters,
and that you interview every possible shyster foreign lawyer in town until you find
one who will speak up for the victims of these terrible crimes by NGOs. It is after
all just the latest NGO plot to take over the world.
- Covering stories in Cambodia is easy. If you run out of material, just find our
who is in possession of 'Dead Tiger village,' and write another piece about the latest
Khmer Rouge/Royal Government offensive. Or you can take a leaf from the book of our
French colleagues and trundle off the Ratanakiri to do another interesting feature
on wild natives of the colonies.
- For street cred, you should travel around on moto-taxis, or preferable buy yourself
a large motor bike. This has the added advantage that you are liable to be robbed
or be the object of a high speed chase, which can provide plenty of interminable
column inches on the deteriorating security situation for your next edition, not
to mention being able to impress your pals at the Heart of Darkness. Journos visiting
- Remember to prepare yourself well, i.e. ensure at all costs that your story is
written well before you arrive at Pochentong. Your visit is only to gather a few
snippets of information which back up your story, and the names of a few local NGO
workers or politicians into whose mouths you can insert your words and opinions.
- On no account should you listen to the local people or anyone living in Cambodia:
you know the situation much better than them from your vantage point in your local
bar in New York/London/Sydney/Hong Kong/Bangkok.
- While in Cambodia, spend all your time at the FCC where you can pick up all the
necessary details about the county from like-minded journos who flew in the day before
- You may of course go off on all expenses paid trips to exotic locations around
the country, but this is purely for pleasure.
- By the way, Cambodia is just the place for that hands-on account of child prostitution
for the consumer's point of view, which you always wanted to do and which of course
will win you plenty of plaudits from your editor back home.
- Tim Seaman, Phnom Penh.