The constructive Cambodian

The constructive Cambodian

In the last decade blogs have become a popular way for Cambodian’s to passionately voice their opinions on current events in the Kingdom. One of the most successful examples is the socio-political blog KI-Media, which recently celebrated 10 million hits just over 5 years after its launch. Despite its achievement, KI-Media could do more to raise its standard of blogging, if not through citizen journalism, at least by staying true to their founding mission and playing a more influential role in the distribution of information.

KI-Media began its operation in early 2000s as an email list-serve meant to distribute sensitive news and information related to Cambodian politics. Their first blog in 2005 was video of an interview with Chhay Vee detailing the 1997 grenade attack on SRP supporters in Phnom Penh. The blog now reuses contents from a wide range of sources without linking to the original sites, but rarely breaks their own unique stories.

Despite the fact that it has become one of the most read blogs among Cambodians and expatriates interested in the nation’s affairs, its content and sourcing have become one of the major setbacks in how citizen media is perceived in Cambodia. Its popularity may reflect public satisfaction with the site; however its role in centralizing Cambodia-related news and information needs to be questioned.

Rather than being a non-partisan aggregator of breaking news and an unbiased outlet for whistle blowers, like Wikileaks, the controversial yet highly successful site that substantiates and publishes highly sensitive documents, KI-Media is instead allowing itself to take on the identity of an opposition website.

People like Norbert Klein, who is the editor of the Cambodian Mirror and a long-time partner in the development of the Internet in Cambodia, are frustrated by the state of KI-Media. He wrote in an email that “un-civil statements, full of personal attacks, using horrendous profanity, combined with ethnic and racial slurs” that are being posted on the site make him feel “ashamed.”

In a letter to readers, KI-Media’s founder said that he hoped to create a “Twitter-like service dedicated to news from Cambodia, at a time when the Twitter concept did not exist yet.” But now Twitter does exist and so do personalized aggregators like Google news alerts, which allow people to collect the day’s news about Cambodia, or anything else, without the assistance of a site like KI-Media. If they really want to have an impact on the Kingdom, and stop relying on other publications for their content, KI-Media should go back to their roots and find ways to break stories and information that isn’t already in the public domain.

In another email I received, a Cambodian human rights activist who prefers not to be named explained that KI-Media is still one of her first stops when searching for current news on the Kingdom, but also expressed concern that KI-Media has a “tendency towards the opposition,” and the site has not “taken enough measures to ensure its professionalism.” In their recent letter to readers, KI-Media boasts that they have posted 36,133 articles, an impressive number, especially in Cambodia, but numbers are not enough. If the sites staffers really want to put their reportedly tireless work to good use (the aforementioned letter claims that “One team member is even facing marriage breakup because of his dedication to maintaining the KI-Media website”), they need to hold themselves to higher standards.

According to their site “KI-Media loves to hear from you, and we’re giving you a bullhorn.” There is great value in allowing public conversations to centre around your content, but KI-Media is no longer unique for this feature. There are thousands of conversations happening between Cambodians on Facebook and AngkorOne as well as competing news outlets and blogs.

Copying stories critical of the government, and allowing angry people to use those stories as a sounding board for their frustrations, is one road that KI-Media can take. I would propose, however, that they push themselves to be an outlet for unique information, like the video that got the site started, and play the role that only an anonymous website can play in a country ranked 117 on the world’s press freedom index.

At the end of their recent letter, the site says that “the truth shall set us free”. It can be hard to report the truth in Cambodia, but KI-Media has the unique ability to do it, and it needs to do it better.

How well do you think Cambodia has dealt with the difficulties of moving on from the Khmer Rouge. Share your ideas with Kounila at


  • Angkor Wat named as the top landmark for the second year

    Travel website TripAdvisor has named Cambodia’s ancient wonder Angkor Wat as the top landmark in the world for the second year running in their Travelers’ Choice Award 2018, an achievement Cambodian tourism operators expect will attract more tourists to the Kingdom. The website uses traveller

  • Hun Sen detractors ‘will die’

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday said those who curse or insult him would eventually die without a plot of land to bury their bodies after being killed by lightning, suffering the same fate as those who recently died in Thmar Baing district in Koh

  • Monks given ‘Samdech’ title for contributions

    Three senior monks on Thursday were given the highest-ranking title “samdech”, with Prime Minister Hun Sen saying that the promotions were due to their contributions to Buddhism. The three distinguished monks were promoted on Thursday morning at Botum Vatey pagoda in Phnom Penh, at a

  • Facing possible sanctions, PM criticises Washington’s rights record

    While United States congressmen are discussing the Cambodia Democracy Act and an amendment that could impose more sanctions against Cambodia’s government, Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday counterattacked by questioning the respect of human rights and democracy under the US-backed Lon Nol regime, and