Welcome back to Anakut – and to the season finale episode of our inaugural podcast!
Today, we’re wrapping up this eight-episode run with a discussion of Cambodian media, a slightly meta topic that pulls together many of the pieces we’ve discussed over the course of this series.
We wanted to hit the subject from a few different angles, so we invited our friends Phorn Bopha, a freelance reporter formerly of the Cambodia Daily and Ith Sothoeuth, the media director at the Cambodia Center of Independent Media, the organisation that backs outlet Voice of Democracy. We also had Nov Povleakhena, lead editor of Focus: Ready for Tomorrow, a Khmer language publication aimed at young Cambodians. I should mention that Focus is a Globe Media Asia production. I should also say that it’s quite good, so check it out when you have a minute.
When you bring up ‘media’ in Cambodia, there are a few points that immediately come to mind. The past few years here, as we’ve discussed in earlier episodes, have seen a sharp contraction in political and civic spaces, including the avenues for free press and speech. Any conversation about media will, for now, unfortunately be set in that context, and we did introduce this episode with a reference to Cambodia’s falling ranking in the Reporters without Borders (RSF) World Press Freedom Index.
Much has already been said about this trend, so we didn’t linger too long on it. As a former staffer of the Daily – which was abruptly shuttered in 2017 after the Cambodian government served it a steep tax bill during the broader crackdown on public dissent and political opposition – Bopha knew full well the importance of independent outlets.
She reminded us that strong news agencies aren’t just valuable for the information they gather and deliver to the public. They’re also a training ground for new generations of journalists and media workers looking to study the world around them.
The loss of the Daily and the tightening bonds on other publications, including and maybe especially Khmer language outlets, has had clear effects on the media landscape in Cambodia. But, as the enterprising young news collective CamboJA showed us this week when it was shortlisted for an RSF award, there’s plenty still happening to keep the flame alive.
With CCIM, Sothoeuth is helping to train both journalists and regular citizens alike to contribute to the information culture of the Kingdom, not to mention showcasing public accountability reporting through VOD.
And at Focus, Leakhena is leading a bright young newsroom working at the forefront of digital media. Meng and I are always looking ahead, so we were especially interested to hear what outlets like Focus see as the future, in terms of finding an audience and meeting them where they are.
One thing is for sure, this isn’t a media world of typewriters and press cards tucked into trilby hats. It’s not even necessarily a world of TVs or laptops, but rather a mobile, social universe that increasingly blurs the boundary between the ‘real’ and digital worlds.
Scroll up and hit play to hear more!