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Phnom Penh (Ah!) - CAMBODIAN JOURNALISM Exposed by Channel News Asia





James Loving - National Radio Text Service



When it comes to obtaining accurate information via Cambodian journalism extortion factors into the result and questions credibility. Channel News Asia (CNA) reported a story on extortion by the Cambodian media that opened up a can of worms. CNA scratched the surface of the problem therefore getting what they wanted and then abandoned the real story without examining the reasons why.


Sunday, March 27, 2016


In January Channel News Asia aired a documentary focused on Cambodian journalism. The centerpiece of the story was Khmer journalist taking bribes to write or not write a story. It was pointed out that this is a common practice in the realm.

The back story was Khmer journalists being involved in reporting or not reporting on the illegal logging industry. Journalists would seek out shipments of timber and extort money from the truck drivers. If the drivers acquiesced then the journo would not report the story.

If they refused to pay the journalist would threaten to expose them and write the story. The documentary took several twists. In one scene they came across a huge truck with expensive lumber. The truck axle was broken due to being overloaded and the equipment couldn't handle the weight.

As the journalists interviewed the driver for information it later was revealed that the shipment belonged to Kith Meng who was described as a telecom tycoon. Meng has several companies under the corporate banned the Royal Group. He owns several television stations among his holding and is a major player in government decisions and business acquisitions.

The drama here is Meng is feared by the populace that understands the lack of ethics on Cambodia's scene where one can get away with murder. Basically it boils down to ruling by intimidation.

Channel News Asia is based in Singapore and has done credible work reporting on subjects that others fear to deal with. Many of there topics deal with human trafficking and child prostitution. The problem is their relationship with NGO's raises questions of how accurate and relative is their perspective as they seem to be in bed with NGO's and not making unbiased reports. In many cases there seems to be agenda.

That issue came to light in this Cambodian journalism documentary where they presented NGO's point of view to the Cambodian government that anyone who reaches the age of 18 and wants to be a journalist should be permitted to do so.

The government's argument is that journalists should be adequately trained in order to become a journalist. Ironically for some strange unknown reason the government gave in to the NGO's and now permit anyone to be a journalist WITHOUT BEING TRAINED in the field.

Absent in many of the stories published in Cambodia are the five essential rules of journalism being the who, what, where, when and why.

This scenario creates a situation where extortion comes into play as it was depicted in the documentary that many Cambodian journalists use their press credentials as a tool for extortion and are not focused on reporting a story that reflects the truth.

It also raises the question why would the government listen to NGO's that have their own self interests at the crux of the issue. This would never occur in America where journalism training is essential.

A Cambodian journalist named Tara who was at the time a reporter with the Phnom Penh Post claimed that he was offered $3,000 not to write a story about illegal logging. He claims that he refused the bribe citing a code of ethics.

He then claimed in the documentary that the offer was raised to $5,000 and again he refused the money.

CNN is guilty of self censorship in accepting tourism advertising money from the Cambodian government and NOT REPORTING on the MURDER of activist CHHUT VUTHY who was investigating illegal logging in April 2012.

Vuthy was in the company of two Cambodia Daily journalists who were taken into custody after they witnessed Vuthy being killed. Nobody has been punished for the murder as it was swept under the rug and CNN fattened their wallets while keeping their mouths shut.

The Phnom Penh Post (PPP) in my opinion is a social networking rag. They love to get involved with NGO's and attend their parties take and publish photos of NGO staff and write their wonderful NGO viewpoint. The PPP is Australian owned and foreign managed.

In one of their Internet reports PPP ran a piece with video regarding the British Women's Business Club boasting about how many friends they made in media. That PPP report demonstrated that statement.

In America we were trained as journalists TO GET THE STORY. Making friends was a non issue.

Most of the Khmer publications have a small readership ranging from 500 copies to a couple of thousand. Many of the larger publications are owned by members in the government.

The two best known English language publications, the PPP and Cambodia Daily claim to print 4,000 copies daily Monday through Friday with one issue published for Saturday and Sunday and it varies how many papers are unsold and returned. Basically their readership is less than that of a college on campus only newspaper.

These publications usually use two journalists, one foreigner and one Khmer for translation, to write a story.

All English language publications and Channel News Asia have reported on a foreigner who left a million dollar a year job with a film company in America to come to Cambodia to save the children. He claims that he gave up private jets, beautiful girls and entertainment parties to be Cambodia's savior.

The problem is there is more to this story than meets the eye. Firstly I know and worked with his former boss who was fired by his boss Peter Chernin. I've covered the entertainment industry for many years and know how the system works when there are company shake-ups.

This individual constructed a school for Khmer children which is a noble achievement. The problem is his ego got in the way and he named the school after himself. This is the type of act that the boss of Cambodia does.

Channel News Asia makes some excellent reports BUT there seems to be a conflict of interest in several of them which we will examine in the future.

The news industry in Cambodia has several questionable practices which we will explore in the future. Many of the foreigners who call themselves journalists ALSO HAVE NO TRAINING in the field. Former Overseas Press Club of Cambodia president Rick Valenzuela said that foreign journalists were given only a THREE MONTH press credential by the government and then they work illegally.

These scenarios are just scratching the surface of the chinks in the armour of Cambodian journalism as depicted in the Channel News Asia documentary. The problem is where is the truth and WHERE IS THE FOLLOW-UP?


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