Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Press unit seeks guidance from Russian state media

Press unit seeks guidance from Russian state media

A view of Russian state news agency TASS building in Moscow this year. The government’s Press and Quick Reaction Unit has requested help from TASS in an effort to prevent a colour revolution. Vasily Maximov/AFP
A view of Russian state news agency TASS building in Moscow this year. The government’s Press and Quick Reaction Unit has requested help from TASS in an effort to prevent a colour revolution. Vasily Maximov/AFP

Press unit seeks guidance from Russian state media

The government’s Press and Quick Reaction Unit has sought the services of Russia’s government-owned news agency to help prevent a “colour revolution”, spokesperson Tith Sothea confirmed yesterday.

The Russian News Agency, better known as TASS, is an integral part of President Vladimir Putin’s propaganda machine and has repeatedly been accused of fabricating reports, especially about the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria.

Svay Sitha, head of the Press and Quick Reaction Unit (PQRU), proposed TASS provide training on news writing skills in a meeting with TASS general director Sergey Mikhaylov on Friday. The reason, according to a statement published on the PQRU website, was because “Russia has many years of experience of successfully preventing colour revolution and in that the press has played an important role in maintaining social stability”.

“The biggest enemy of [a] colour revolution is showing and explaining to the public, so they know and see the truth,” Sitha said in the statement.

The statement outlined Sitha’s belief that training from the Russian government media group would help disseminate information about the achievements of the government and “prevent any exaggeration and fake news which is contrary to the truth” and designed to “create chaos in society”.

Sothea yesterday confirmed Mikhaylov had “welcomed” the proposal but no formal deal had been made. Mikhaylov and other TASS personnel did not respond to requests for comment by deadline.

Moeun Chhean Naridh, director of the Cambodian Institute for Media Studies, said the strength of a democracy was measured on its level of press freedom, and choosing Russia for a tutor was a dubious decision. “In a truly democratic society, I think we will not want an international media organisation like the Russian New Agency to provide this kind of training,” Naridh said.

“We know that the Russian society claims to be democratic, but . . . there are various restrictions on rights and freedoms.”

He noted, however, the PQRU and TASS were “birds of the same feather”.

“I don’t think [PQRU] would want to have training or advice from real professional media organisations, like AP or Reuters, because they don’t share the same ideology or news values,” he said.

In an email, Human Rights Watch Asia deputy director Phil Robertson suggested the proposed media training course be dubbed “building credible sounding narratives with lies”, given TASS’ spin on stories about eastern Ukraine. “Any way you look at it, this is not going to increase the truth quotient in the government’s reactions to queries by reporters.”

MOST VIEWED

  • Hun Sen: Stop Russia sanctions

    Prime Minister Hun Sen said sanctions against Russia as a result of its military offensive in Ukraine should be stopped as they have produced no tangible results, and predicted that a global food crisis would ensue in 2023 as a consequence. Speaking to an audience at

  • Chinese tourists 2.0 – Coming anytime soon?

    Regional tourism is grappling with the absence of the prolific travellers and big spenders – the Chinese tourists. Cambodia, which has welcomed over two million Chinese tourists before Covid-19, is reeling from the economic loss despite being the first to fully open last November ‘To put

  • PM reflects on shoe throwing: Free speech or act of violence?

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on May 17 questioned whether a man who threw a shoe at him while he was in the US was exercising freedom of expression or if it was an act of hostility. Hun Sen was referring to an incident last week when

  • Siem Reap’s Angkor Botanical Garden opens

    The Angkor Botanical Garden was officially opened on May 19 with free entry for both local and international visitors for the first six weeks. The garden was established on a nearly 15ha plot of land in Siem Reap. “After the first six weeks, Angkor Botanical Garden

  • Pub Street on the cards for Battambang

    The Battambang Provincial Authority has announced that it is considering establishing a Pub Street in the area around the heritage buildings in Battambang town in a bid to attract more tourists. Battambang provincial governor Sok Lou told The Post that the establishment of a Pub

  • Hun Sen: Don’t react to hostility

    Prime Minister Hun Sen urged tolerance and thanked members of the Cambodian diaspora for not reacting to the hostility on display towards him by others while he was in the US to attend the May 12-13 ASEAN-US Special Summit in Washington, DC. In an audio