Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday announced he will grant an annual audience with journalists, instructing Information Minister Khieu Kanharith, who suggested the idea, to sort out the time, restaurant and list of attendees.
The premier said the gathering would help close the gap between government leaders and the Kingdom’s press.
It would also feature “dining and dancing”, he said, after accepting an award for supporting press freedom from a group called the Union Media of ASEAN yesterday.
“Sharing discussions and questions, this will make the dining more delicious, but I hope there will be no people accusing me of buying their journalist’s heart,” the premier said.
Sebastian Strangio, a journalist and author of Hun Sen’s Cambodia, said the plan fit with the premier’s recent efforts to “bring himself down from Olympus” and connect with disenfranchised voters.
“Will it mean anything? Any attempt to give the press more access to the prime minister should be welcomed, but it all depends on who will be invited and how open the questioning will be permitted to be,” Strangio said via email.
Puy Kea, secretary general of the Club of Cambodian Journalists, said the event would hopefully compel more government leaders to engage with reporters.
“This is good,” Kea said. “I’ve interviewed him several times and he accepted all critical questions.”
Hun Sen later lamented what he referred to as inaccurate journalism, including suggestions he had purchased Facebook likes, an assertion he called stupid.
He also pointed out his dominance of the Kingdom’s news cycle.
“If Hun Sen did not speak, you would all lose your jobs,” he told gathered reporters.
“When Hun Sen gives speeches, you can write for days. But if I do not speak, the analysts, they have nothing to say, too, and sometimes they don’t listen but speak anyway.”
Additional reporting by Shaun Turton