Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Govt springs media surprise

Govt springs media surprise

Govt springs media surprise

THE Royal Government has moved towards ending its conflict with the media - dubbed by some as the fourth Indochina War - by appointing a Western journalist as media consultant.

Experienced Cambodia watcher Sue Downie is taking a six-month sabbatical from the wire agency UPI to fill the wide-ranging post.

Among her tasks will be advising senior government figures on how to deal with the media, improving the government's image at home and abroad and setting up a commercial national radio station.

Downie will also be advising on how to revamp the government news agency AKP and television station TVK and recommending the appointment of public relations officers to every ministry.

Internationally government leaders have particularly been angered by coverage of the hostage crisis and Downie will be offering public relations advice on the issue.

Downie's appointment may come as a surprise to some in view of three statements emanating from Co-Premier Norodom Ranariddh's office criticizing UPI stories written by her. She would only describe the apparent irony as "interesting."

Talking of Ranariddh she said: "He and other senior leaders realize there is a problem in the relationship between government and the media and are looking to seek advice on how to change that."

The government has come under fire for moves to control the largely inexperienced Khmer press, enjoying relative freedom for the first time.

Downie, an Australian citizen, described herself as "100 percent in favor of press freedom" and said she would be pushing for it in her dealings with government.

"One of the problems is that some people don't know how to do the job [media relations] but they are willing to listen to suggestions."

She sees encouraging improvement in the Khmer press as a priority. "Some of the material is way below an acceptable journalistic standard. It is rubbish," said Downie, who in 1988 became the first Western wire correspondent back in Cambodia since 1975.

The appointment was signed by Sok An and Veng Sereyvuth, Ministers in Charge of the Offices of the Council of Ministers and is being financed by discretionary funds from Australian Ambassador Tony Kevin.

Downie said she was keen to take up the new appointment after watching the government fumble the media ball many times.

"For me it was very frustrating seeing what could be done in so many areas that were not being done that I was just itching to get in there and make suggestions."

Her biggest problem she said was "not having enough time to do the job even though I work 19 hours a day."

She stressed: "Changes are not going to come overnight, they may take the full six months. All I can do is offer suggestions it is up to them [if they are taken up]."

Downie, 18 years a journalist and author, will take up her appointment on Nov 1 after completing a book on the Untac period. After her government contract expires she will be setting up a Hanoi bureau for UPI.

MOST VIEWED

  • NY sisters inspired by Khmer heritage

    Growing up in Brooklyn, New York, Cambodian-American sisters Edo and Eyen Chorm have always felt a deep affinity for their Cambodian heritage and roots. When the pair launched their own EdoEyen namesake jewellery brand in June, 2020, they leaned heavily into designs inspired by ancient Khmer

  • Omicron patients can stay home: PM

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has given the green light for anyone who contracts the SARS-CoV-2 Omicron mutation or any other variant to convalesce or receive treatment at home or in any other reasonable non-healthcare setting. The new decision supersedes a restriction on home care for

  • The effects of the USD interest rate hike on Cambodian economy

    Experts weigh in on the effect of a potential interest rate expansion by the US Federal Reserve on a highly dollarised Cambodia Anticipation of the US Federal Reserve’s interest rate hike in March is putting developing economies on edge, a recent blog post by

  • Cambodia’s first ever anime festival kicks off Jan 22 at capital’s F3 centre

    Phnom Penh's first ever Anime Festival will bring together fans, artists, shops and other local businesses with ties to the Japanese animation style for cosplay competitions, online games, pop-up shops and more on January 22, with Friends Futures Factory (F3) hosting. F3 is a project that

  • PM eyes Myanmar peace troika

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has suggested that ASEAN member states establish a tripartite committee or diplomatic troika consisting of representatives from Cambodia, Brunei and Indonesia that would be tasked with mediating a ceasefire in Myanmar. The premier also requested that Nippon Foundation chairman Yohei Sasakawa

  • Demining rat ‘hero’ Magawa dead at 8

    A landmine-hunting rat that was awarded a gold medal for heroism for clearing ordnance from the Cambodian countryside has died, his charity said on January 11. Magawa, a giant African pouched rat originally from Tanzania, helped clear mines from about 225,000sqm of land – the equivalent of 42