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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Francophones invest in print

Francophones invest in print

C AMBODIA'S newspaper wars have a new competitor, one unabashedly seeking more

influence for France.

But the survival of Cambodge Soir, which

debuted on May 9 by the same group that publishes Le Mekong, may depend on an

advertising market that is increasingly being sought after by many more Khmer

and English language papers. Cambodge Soir will be published three times

a week.

Aupelf-Uref, the Francophone agency dedicated to promoting the

French language worldwide, gave Cambodge Soir a $40,000 start-up


"I think we're going to find a place here quite easily," says

editor Philippe LaTour. "Many French speaking people have said to me, 'It's

great. We won't be so tired reading the Cambodia Daily (in English)'."

However, with more than 30 newspapers in circulation, the advertising

market in Cambodia is small.

Those that compete for ads all vie for the

same small pool of advertising dollars, says Craig Martin, manager of

International Management & Investment Consultants, which has done research

on the media market. He said the total spent on advertising in Cambodian media

in 1994 was about $5million. Less than $500,000 went on print advertising; the

rest went to television.

"(Cambodge Soir) is going to have to go

after the same advertising as the Mekong, the Cambodia Daily and the
Phnom Penh Post, and it's going to have its work cut out for it," he


He said the foreign newspapers in Cambodia that rely on ads are

just "getting by," with the possible exception of the Cambodia Daily,
which is subsidized by the Japan Relief for Cambodia and American Assistance

for Cambodia and so is not in the same competitive situation. The subsidies

enable it to offer cut rate ads. "They undercut all of them on rates," said


Christophe LaBorde, the project chief for Aupelf in Phnom Penh,

said the Francophone agency's mission in Cambodia was to support the use and

teaching of French in education and through the media. "This is why we gave the

grant for the daily."

In the last six months Aupelf has significantly

stepped up its activities in Cambodia and besides Cambodge Soir, it

supports French programs at the University of Phnom Penh, the Institute of

Technology, two high schools, and has recently begun courses in French for hotel

workers at the Allson Hotel.

He said the idea behind teaching French in

the high schools was to give students enough French to be able to take

university courses in French in scientific fields like medicine and technology.

Aupelf also support a newspaper in Vietnam, le Courier du Vietnam, and he

said more projects will be launched here in the future.

"We just opened

this office six months ago. Before that, we had only the Institute of

Technology," he said.

The group's work has come under considerable

pressure at the Institute of Technology, where students are staging protests

over being taught only French. The protesters say English would be more

important to them in competing in international commerce.


Soir board member Marc Victor said the paper's editorial mission is

straightforward: to give French readers news about Cambodia. "We are not

militant Francophones. We are journalists. There are a lot of people who speak

French in Cambodia. The Francophonia of Cambodia is not our problem."



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