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Government calls for PM ‘fake news’ correction

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Prime Minister Hun Sen was at the event commemorating the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the Royal Cambodian Army’s headquarters on Thursday last week. Heng Chivoan

Government calls for PM ‘fake news’ correction

The Cambodian government on Friday strongly urged Singaporean outlet Channel News Asia (CNA) to issue a correction to an article it published on Thursday, claiming Prime Minister Hun Sen had called on the military to destroy the country’s political opponents.

The statement, issued by the government’s Press and Quick Reaction Unit of the Council of Ministers, was also sent to Singapore Ambassador to Cambodia Michael Tan.

The statement was made in response to a CNA article entitled Hun Sen calls on military to destroy opponents. It said the article misled the public about the prime minister’s statement.

“Destroying opponents does not refer to the now-dissolved opposition party [the Cambodia National Rescue Party or CNRP]. Therefore, the title of your article, intentionally or unintentionally, gives a very wrong message, making the public misunderstand the correct wording of the Cambodian prime minister,” the letter read.

The Press and Quick Reaction Unit also said that the news outlet wrongly quoted the prime minister on a number of issues, and demanded that a correction be issued immediately.

“We strongly urge Channel News Asia to correct immediately your article with the above-mentioned transcript so as to avoid confusion among the public on the Cambodian government position,” it read.

International Relations Institute of Cambodia director-general Kin Phea said that foreign media attention on Cambodia was increasing in light of what they regard as the Kingdom’s political turn towards China, as well as its increasingly complex internal politics with the dissolution of the CNRP in November 2017.

He also questioned whether CNA’s publication of the article was ill-intentioned or simply a misunderstanding through translation.

“When Prime Minister Hun Sen says something that is sensitive, their reasons for publishing it could be two-fold. The first is that they have bad intentions. Or alternatively, it might be a misunderstanding of the translation, which means that it is important for us to pay close attention to what is written,” he said.

Club of Cambodian Journalists president Pen Bona said that foreign media using Khmer news agencies must be careful about translating from Khmer to English as the languages are so different, causing confusion.

“As journalists, we should not quote any words that are different from their original, causing the public to misunderstand what is said. It is tantamount to a lack of professionalism,” he said.

On his official Facebook page yesterday, Prime Minister Hun Sen once again hit back at critics for ignoring the progress Cambodia has made while creating lies about the Kingdom.

“As we have seen with our own eyes, Cambodia is progressing towards a better development day by day."

“Foreign tourists coming to Cambodia are also increasing every year, while investors have more confidence and believe in our political and social stability which is favourable for both small and large investments. But despite all our efforts, there are still lies about our country,” he wrote.

The government has begun taking measures to combat what it has increasingly referred to as the growing problem of ‘fake news’.

On January 21, Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith announced that the ministry would launch a live broadcast news programme on TVK to provide accurate and up to the minute news to address inaccurate rumours from the day’s events.