With the annual meeting between Prime Minister Hun Sen and the Kingdom’s journalists set to take place on January 14, officials from NGOs working in the area of media development and protection said they welcome the opportunity to question the premier directly.

Hun Sen said on January 9 that he would give journalists the opportunity to ask him questions on various issues at the January 14 meeting, which is a different format from previous ones where he typically made a speech to them about morality, ethics and relevant laws.

Nop Vy, executive director of the Cambodian Journalists Alliance (CamboJa), said that giving the opportunity to journalists to share challenges and ask questions in the forum might enable the country’s leaders to realise what the real issues journalists face are and seek appropriate solutions.

“I understand that the government can address a lack of understanding of our work, for example, between the police and journalists, and prepare a law to help journalists by ending the problem of impunity,” he said.

He continued that at previous meetings, it was just a speech wherein the prime minister made scores of recommendations to the media, noting that journalists rarely had any opportunity to raise any issues or ask any questions of the head of government.

Ith Sothoeut, media director of the Cambodian Centre for Independent Media (CCIM), said the event would enable journalists to meet and communicate with government officials to exchange viewpoints and the officials can gain a clearer understanding of the work done by journalists.

“Usually when we meet, we talk more. So, the understanding between the two sides is better. If we let one side speak and the other side listens, then we know only one side. If we have this forum, we can communicate, I think that the forum will be more important,” he said.

NHK Japan Correspondent Chuob Sokchea said this gathering is a good opportunity to improve the relationship between the journalists and the government’s top leaders, as well as to evaluate and critique the communications between the journalists and local authorities.

Furthermore, he said, it is an opportunity for the prime minister to propose corrections, from his point of view, of the journalism profession as practised in Cambodia.

“It is important to delve into the past wrongdoing by journalists at some point in order to orient new ones and veteran journalists who have unknowingly made professional mistakes,” he added.

VOD reporter Meng Kruy Ponlok also supports the opportunity by journalists to ask direct questions of Hun Sen.

“We can communicate and raise the challenges faced by journalists with him as previously it has been difficult to interview the top leaders in government. Sometimes, government officials scolded us and did not respond to the actual questions. It’s good for us to raise those challenges to him,” he said.

Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith said the meeting between the premier and journalists is being held to promote the development of journalism and enhance the relationship between journalists and spokespersons from all ministries, institutions and the capital and provincial administrations.

“Both parties can verify or discuss information to make the information more accurate, factual and helpful for society,” Kanharith said.

The prime minister’s media forum this year is a resumption of the tradition after a two-year hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic.