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Freelance journalism a more dangerous profession: group

Freelance journalism a more dangerous profession: group

091210_04
Publisher Hang Chakra arrives at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court earlier this year.

In the current situation, all cambodian journalists are under threat.

FREELANCE journalists are increasingly at risk worldwide of official persecution, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said this week, a trend Cambodian media experts said is already evident here in the Kingdom.

In its annual census of imprisoned journalists, the committee noted that freelancers make up about 45 percent of the at least 136 journalists currently incarcerated worldwide.

This, the organisation argued, is because the Internet has lowered the barriers for freelance journalists, and professional news outlets are increasingly reliant on freelancers and stringers in place of full-time staff as they search for ways to cut costs.

“The days when journalists went off on dangerous assignments knowing they had the full institutional weight of their media organisations behind them are receding into history,” the committee’s executive director, Joel Simon, said in a statement on Tuesday.

“Today, journalists on the front lines are increasingly working independently,” Simon added.

“The rise of online journalism has opened the door to a new generation of reporters, but it also means they are vulnerable.”

This worldwide trend can be clearly seen in the Cambodian press, said Moeun Chhean Narridh, director of the Cambodian Institute for Media Studies.

“The number of freelance journalists has increased in recent years because many newspapers, particularly Khmer-language newspapers, cannot afford to send their reporters to the provinces to cover stories,” he said, adding that freelance journalists often lack the training and expertise of their professional counterparts.

Pa Nguon Teang, the director of the Cambodian Centre for Independent Media, said opportunities are limited in the current media market for journalists who are not well-connected.

“TV, radio licences – all of these are in the hands of the government,” he said.
“It should be free for all to get these licenses, but actually it depends on your relationship with the government.”

Both Pa Nguon Teang and Moeun Chhean Narridh said, however, that whether they have the protection of a professional institution or not, all journalists are at risk if they dare to criticise Cambodian elites.

This past June, as the CPJ noted, Khmer Machas Srok newspaper publisher Hang Chakra was sentenced to one year in prison for running a series of articles accusing officials working under Deputy Prime Minister Sok An of corruption.

Opposition newspaper Moneaksekar Khmer, meanwhile, ceased publication following the June arrest of editor Dam Sith.

“In the current situation, all Cambodian journalists are under threat and intimidation because of the criminal lawsuits,” Moeun Chhean Narridh said.

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