Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Media-pass mandate a double-edged sword for Cambodia's journalists

Media-pass mandate a double-edged sword for Cambodia's journalists

Three ‘journalists’ pose with their press passes in Siem Reap province in November 2015 after they were detained for attempting to extort money from people. Photo supplied
Three ‘journalists’ pose with their press passes in Siem Reap province in November 2015 after they were detained for attempting to extort money from people. Photo supplied

Media-pass mandate a double-edged sword for Cambodia's journalists

The government has issued new rules for journalists to acquire a media pass – a move designed to crack down on fraudsters but that also poses a barrier to independent freelancers.

Ministry of Information spokesman Ouk Kimseng yesterday said that as of this month, the department will require applicants for a media pass to present their credentials from their organisation’s head.

“This is what we are seeking to crack down on – those who pretend to be journalists. We want to know exactly what organisation they are from,” Kimseng said.

The change comes in the wake of numerous cases of “fake journalists” extorting money from illegal timber traders.

But Pa Nuong Thea, executive director of the Cambodian Centre for Independent Media, said the step was “another effort and latest aim of the government to impose pressure by making it more complicated and difficult for journalists”.

“It is quite suspect that this pressure comes at the time when the government tries to force media to use long official titles of the government leaders, such as ‘samdech’,” he added, referring to the honorific meaning “outstanding leadership and love from the people”.

The government on Wednesday issued a “final warning” to media outlets: From this month onwards, if any publication failed to use the honorific “samdech” when referring to Prime Minister Hun Sen, the government would “take measures”, but did not specify what those actions might be.

Photojournalist Jim Mizerski said he was told he needed to submit a letter with a stamp of a registered media company along with his application, “which by definition as an independent journalist, I cannot do”.

“After having a press card for about 10 years, I can no longer get one,” he said. “Taking pictures at [protests] is a right, not a privilege, so I will continue doing what I have been doing, with or without a card.”

Club of Cambodian Journalists president Pen Bona said legitimate freelancers should be given the opportunity to present their case to the ministry.

“I think normally the press card is for every journalist . . . they should have a press card, but it is a problem [for freelancers],” he said.

Analyst Chea Vannath said while the measure might have a negative impact on freelancers, the ministry had their reasons.

“The Khmer journalists in a lot of cases do not perform as a professional journalist; they wear the sign of ‘journalist’, but they went around threatening people and asking people for money,” she said.

MOST VIEWED

  • Forest rangers seek 1,210 rifles after serious attacks

    The Ministry of Environment sought permission from the Ministry of National Defence to arm municipal and provincial rangers with 1,210 rifles in response to one of its rangers being killed and two others critically assaulted while out on patrol in Mondulkiri and Kampong Thom provinces. In

  • Rainsy stopped in Paris from boarding Thai flight

    Airline officials at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport on Thursday prevented Sam Rainsy from boarding his flight to Bangkok ahead of his announced return to Cambodia on Saturday. Prime Minister Hun Sen had earlier in the day assured Phnom Penh residents that there would be

  • Analyst: Rainsy blocked from boarding flight 'an excuse'

    THAI Airways not allowing Sam Rainsy on its route from Paris to Bangkok on Thursday is being used as an excuse to keep his standing among fellow coup plotters and his uninformed supporters as flights to non-Asean countries are available, an analyst said on Friday.

  • Rainsy lands in Malaysia

    Cambodian opposition figure Sam Rainsy arrived in Kuala Lumpur airport on Saturday afternoon after boarding a flight from Paris, where he has been living for more than four years. Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation spokesperson Koy Kuong said on Saturday that Cambodia respected

  • Prayut indicates no entry into Thailand for CNRP’s Rainsy

    Cambodian government officials on Wednesday welcomed the position of Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha after he indicated that Sam Rainsy would not be allowed to return to Cambodia through Thailand. “According to our commitment to Asean, we will not interfere in each other’s internal

  • Sokha continues call for dropping of charge after bail conditions reduced

    Not satisfied with having his bail conditions reduced, allowing him to travel freely in Cambodia, Kem Sokha says he wants his charge totally dropped. “As an innocent man who has been in detention for two years even without being found guilty, I continue to demand