A growing number of people in Cambodia consume news with the same regularity that they have breakfast every morning. However, the situation of the media in the Kingdom, particularly the way facts and information in the news are presented and consumed, is rather worrying.
In our country of 14.8 million people, many people read newspapers every morning, look at magazines over lunch, watch their favourite television programmes when they have a spare moment and listen to the radio throughout the day. The government, opposition parties and private businesses are all deeply invested in media, as it is both a necessary tool for communicating with their constituents, as well as an increasingly attractive entrepreneurial opportunity.
While everyone has their favourite media outlets, it is important to seek out news from various sources in order to have a balanced understanding of events in the Kingdom. “People should listen to more than one news agency for any major news stories,” said 26-year-old Ung Chan Sophea, a Radio France International correspondent.
The young journalist, who is also a reporter for the French newspaper Cambodge Soir Hebdo, says that news over the radio is more independent than through other channels such as print and television. Since radio is the most affordable of all of these media, it means that a large percentage of the population is able to receive relatively unfiltered information, especially if they seek out stations that are not politically aligned.
People from all walks of life now have more choices than ever when it comes to deciding where they want to get their information from. Cambodia now has more than 22 radio stations, seven television outfits, 341 print newspapers, as well as more than100 magazines focusing on a variety of topics. If people are mindful about their choices, information gleaned from these sources can help improve the way they live, work and do business.
Among the various forms of media, radio is the most widely used in Cambodia. A September 2009 media survey by Indochina Research found that more than 70 percent of the Kingdom listens to the radio. News and song request shows are the two most popular types of programmes for listeners from the five cities who were included in the survey.
People should listen to more than one news agency for any major news stories"
Having spent four years at Royal University of Phnom Penh to reach fluency in French, Ung Chan Sophea signed on for another two years at the country’s oldest university to participate in intensive journalism training before venturing into the male-dominated profession of journalism.
The young radio reporter thinks that the ability of journalists like her to gather well-balanced and accurate news is becoming more realistic. Government officials are providing news releases and daring to answer questions about political and societal issues that they haven’t done in the past.
Faced with the responsibility of reporting on social and political affairs, Ung Chan Sophea believes that news over the airwaves helps inform and educate people on an array of issues ranging from government policies, amplifying voices of the marginalised and agricultural market information.
Twenty-three-year-old Yung Khemara, an FM93.75 radio presenter and reporter, agrees that the government’s increasing openness to the media is a welcome change for journalists hoping to cover major news stories for their listeners. “In recent years, ministries have been providing more information to the media. There are more trained press officers in the government institutions, as well as more trained journalists to fill reporting positions for radio and newspapers,” Yung Khemara said.
The Institute of Foreign Language graduate thinks that her ability to gather news from sources ranging from a person on the street to government ministers makes news more credible. “For a news story on a conflict between rich and poor, I need to talk to both sides, and also to reach out to authorities for additional explanation.”
A 2009 report titled Enhancing Independent Media in Cambodia: An Ethics Perspective, by the Cambodian Centre for Independent Media, said that 51 percent of the 2,000 people who responded claimed radio was their primary source of information and 37 percent said TV. The report also recommended that the government pass “a freedom of information law – a basic law characteristic of any democracy – that sets guidelines for government officials disclosing documents not deemed confidential by the state”.
Cambodian Television Network (CTN)
From current affairs to entertainment to education programmes, the latecomer is the largest station the Kingdom. A BBC World Service Trust survey, published last year, says 59 percent of Cambodians watche television everyday, and that 73 percent of these are part of the expansive CTN audience.
One of the oldest print magazines to survive the unpredictable publishing market, the decade-old, fortnightly publication is known for its stories on art, culture, film stars and lifestyle. As it’s name suggests, the magazine remains Cambodia’s most “popular”.
Wat Phnom FM 105.75
Launched in November 2009, Wat Phnom FM 105.75 is one of the latest radio stations to reach for a younger audience. FM 105.75, though, is not only about entertainment and lifestyle, but strives also to promote democracy in the Kingdom. News on air is all about good governance, politics, economics and social issues. It is supported by AusAID and the World Bank.