Prime Minister Hun Sen called on journalists to fulfil their professional roles by publishing true information and fighting fake news from both national and international origins.

He also requested that journalists do more to reveal the “opportunists” in their ranks, who he said undermine the values and prestige of the media for their own gain under the guise of “freedom of the press”.

Hun Sen made the remarks on the occasion of the 6th annual meeting between the prime minister and journalists, which is meant to be held in person every January 14, except this year and last year due the ongoing pandemic.

“Journalists must continue to help in the fight against complacency, cheating, corruption and injustice in society to build a clean and transparent Cambodia,” he said.

He also requested that the media help the government by promoting reforms and transparency, saying this can be accomplished by journalists in the course of fulfilling their professional roles of studying issues and disclosing only factual information without fabrications.

“We must continue to destroy opportunists who seek personal gain by taking refuge under the label of the press as this undermines the prestige of the media.

“We must continue to participate in the fight against false information and misinformation in the national and international contexts,” he said, adding that fake news was a psychological warfare tactic used by “foreigners” to cause social unrest, political instability, social insecurity and hostility between Cambodians.

All journalists’ associations must continue to cooperate with relevant ministries and institutions by providing vocational training and professional skills to their staff and agencies to keep up with the development of digital media technology, he said.

“We must remember that if we have modern equipment but do not have the human resources to use it, we will not be able to grow. Especially, the traditional media must develop to withstand market competition from modern media,” he added.

He also asked the media to join with the government to prevent drug offences, gambling and the apprehension of gangsters, robbers and violent criminals and encourage safe driving to reduce road traffic accidents.

He said the media should participate in the fight against Covid-19 by spreading the government’s three dos and three don’ts message and other preventive measures introduced by the Ministry of Health.

Huy Vannak, president of the Union of Journalist Federations of Cambodia (UJFC), supported Hun Sen’s remarks about the important role played by the media and praised all professional journalists who maintained good values and were faithful in the fulfilment of their duties.

“Regrettably, there are a small number of online journalists who have acted improperly, tarnishing the image of the press in general. I have always said that the journalistic profession must not be pursued just to fill your own belly, but for the sake of journalism.

“Journalism should have the goals of leading the Kingdom’s intellectual life and encouraging a noble conscience and noble ideals that serve the interests of humanity.

“People who value knowledge respect real journalists who spread the truth and have professional ethics. Journalists must constantly remind themselves that they are not political activists or advocates – nor are they police, judges or government officials. Journalists report rather than act,” he said.

Nop Vy, executive director of the Cambodian Journalists Alliance (CamboJA), also supported Hun Sen’s statements encouraging journalists to play their professional roles and report the truth without fear or favour.

“However, the government should strengthen the safety and security and protection of journalists who have performed their professional duties. I do not think there should be any attacks on journalists or threats against those who have done their job ethically and told the truth,” he said.

According to the Ministry of Information’s Fake News Monitoring Committee, there were a total of 1,938 cases of fake news, false information, incitement, and insults against the country leaders in 2021.