Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Press freedom ‘collapsed’ in 2017, journalist survey says

Press freedom ‘collapsed’ in 2017, journalist survey says

Huy Vannak (left), a Ministry of Interior official and head of a journalists union, attends the launch of report on media freedom yesterday, where he disagreed with the conclusion that Cambodia's media freedoms were in collapse.
Huy Vannak (left), a Ministry of Interior official and head of a journalists union, attends the launch of report on media freedom yesterday, where he disagreed with the conclusion that Cambodia's media freedoms were in collapse. Hong Menea

Press freedom ‘collapsed’ in 2017, journalist survey says

The “façade of media freedom” in the Kingdom “collapsed” last year, with journalists reporting a sharp drop in their hopes for independent press, according to the results of a new survey launched yesterday.

The Cambodian Center for Independent Media (CCIM) study surveyed 75 journalists from 41 local media outlets last November. Only 11 percent of surveyed journalists said Cambodian was heading “in the right direction”, a steep decline from the 71 percent reported in 2015.

The report comes in the wake a widespread media crackdown that saw three journalists jailed on suspicion of “espionage” and the closure of several independent news outlets such as the Cambodia Daily and Radio Free Asia.

A whopping 92 percent of reporters surveyed believed those shutdowns were “primarily political”, while 83 percent said media freedom had decreased in 2017. “Many commented that this was so obvious as to make the question ridiculous,” the report read.

Indeed, anonymous quotations in the report detail the realities journalists in Cambodia face. “The authorities have warned us: don’t be so brave,” one said.

The report ranked the Daily, The Phnom Penh Post and Voice of America the most independent media outlets in that order. Between the Daily’s closure and the sharp curtailment of VOA’s access to airwaves, among other government actions, four of the top six outlets were characterised as having been “severely disrupted” in 2017.

Independently owned government mouthpiece Fresh News received the worst independence ranking, just two tenths of a point off of the lowest possible score. In fact, it was ranked below actual state-run outlets, like AKP and the Interior Ministry’s Nice TV, as well as Bayon TV, run by Prime Minister Hun Sen’s daughter, Hun Mana.

The majority of respondents said they could not do their work without fear of interference or repercussions, a rise on previous years, and physical and verbal attacks also increased.

Meanwhile, almost half of the participants saw “government influence and control” as their biggest challenge.

The findings rang true for the Daily’s deputy publisher, Deborah Krisher-Steele, who was charged with defamation after her publication was shut down. “I am with the majority,” she said.

But Huy Vannak, director of the Union of Journalist Federations of Cambodia and an Interior Ministry official, questioned CCIM’s findings, especially its concept of “independent media”.

“A media outlet cannot be really independent . . . unless its journalists stop receiving salaries … or it stops receiving fees from advertisers,” he said, claiming last year’s closures of media outlets were not linked to politics, but “rooted in their own activities”.

Chhay Sophal, of the Club of Cambodian Journalists, cast doubt on the study’s methodology, saying “the finding is not representative”. The report itself acknowledged it was not a “rigorous random sampling”, although it aimed to capture a broad range of voices.

Unlike nearly all journalists surveyed, Sophal claimed local media were on the right path. “The loss of some media outlets does not mean there is less freedom.”

Additional reporting by Erin Handley

MOST VIEWED

  • Judge lands in court after crashing into alleged thief

    Sen Sok district police on Thursday sent a Koh Kong Provincial Court judge to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on manslaughter charges after he crashed his car into a woman riding a motorbike on Wednesday, killing her. District police chief Hour Meng Vang told The

  • Gov’t to boost Siem Reap tourism

    The Ministry of Tourism released the results of an inter-ministerial committee meeting concerning Siem Reap province’s Tourism Development Master Plan for 2020-2035 on Wednesday, revealing the government’s plan to improve the overall tourist landscape there. The meeting was attended by Minister of Tourism

  • Crumbling prices, rent ruffle condo segment

    The prolonged decline in international arrivals to Cambodia intensified by renewed Covid-19 fears has driven down condominium sales prices and rental rates in Phnom Penh, a research report said. CBRE Cambodia, the local affiliate of US commercial real estate services and investment firm CBRE Group

  • Over $3M in traffic fines collected in two months

    Traffic police officers collected over $3 million in fines throughout the Kingdom during the past two months when officers strictly enforced the law in accordance with a May sub-decree, officials said. As incentives, law enforcement officers received between 200,000 and two million riel ($50 to $500) each. The figures

  • More than 10,000 workers suspended

    More than 10,000 workers at 18 factories in Svay Rieng province have been suspended because of Covid-19, said provincial deputy governor Ros Pharith. Home to 11 special economic zones, Pharith said Svay Rieng has not been spared as the pandemic takes a toll on the global economy. “There

  • Nod given for school exams

    The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport announced that State-run higher educational institutions can hold examinations to end the academic year, while private schools can organise grade 9 and grade 12 examinations at their premises for two days. However, private institutions have to take measures to prevent

  • Kingdom’s exports to US mushroom 25.94% in first five months to $2.4B

    Though Cambodia’s exports to other countries have been stalled amid the evolving Covid-19 environment, the Kingdom’s shipments to the US were worth 25.94 per cent more in the first five months of this year than they were in the year-ago period. Bilateral trade between

  • Oz lauds Kingdom’s passage of money laundering laws

    In a press release published by the Australian embassy in Phnom Penh on Monday, the country applauded Cambodia’s stance on transnational crimes as well as its promulgation of an anti-money laundering law and a law on combating proliferation financing. The praise came after King

  • Lotus face masks designed to cover globe

    A French designer in Cambodia has produced ecological face masks from lotus fibre to supply local and international markets with an eye on preserving ancestral techniques and supporting Cambodian women in rural communities. During a trip to Asia, Awen Delaval, an eco-friendly fashion designer, was

  • Accused not treated equally, says CCHR

    The Cambodia Centre for Human Rights (CCHR) has urged the Court of Appeal to do more to ensure that an accused’s right to a fair trial is fully respected. In a bulletin released on Monday, the CCHR said it had monitored 273 cases at the