>Cambodia’s bloggers challenge traditional media

>Picture of Chak Sopheap

ABC Radio, Australia

Cambodia suffers from low rates of literacy and still very low internet accessibility, nonetheless a nascent blogging movement is taking shape.

Cambodian bloggers – or “Cloggers” – as they refer to themselves are starting to use cyberspace to to discuss music, romance, daily life – and just occasionally, politics.

Presenter: Bill Bainbridge
Speakers: Chak Sopheap, “Three Dimensions of Life” Blogger; Pin Samithy, Editor in Chief Rasmei Kampuchea and President of the Club Of Cambodian Journalists

BAINBRIDGE: Can you just describe what you have here on your blog?

SOPHEAP: Yes here the recent article that I posted on the moto advertisement on the TV. It is about the kind of inconsistency of the advertisement, like the lady come up with the sexy clothes in order to advertise the moto, so to me I feel that it is contradictory to Cambodian culture. So I comment on it and I got mainly comments from other people who are pro and against my idea, and I like it.

BAINBRIDGE: Twenty three year old Chak Sopheap is one of Cambodia’s very few bloggers. Only ten per cent of people here have access to the Internet and most of those are in the capital Phnom Penh.

While the traditional news media has no official censorship and is often described as one of the freest in the region, a recent study concluded Cambodia’s “media is closely controlled by politics, money and fear”. A survey of 150 journalists last year found that 65 per cent were afraid of being physically attacked, and 62 per cent feared legal action.

Pin Samithy is President of the Club of Cambodian Journalists. He says while violence against journalists has diminished in recent years, the threat of criminal and civil prosecutions has increased.

SAMITHY: We are very concerned about this and I think that after the elections the Cambodian journalists should meet each other and resolve this problem that we don�t want any journalist to be jailed because of there job, yes, their report.

BAINBRIDGE: Samithy is also editor in chief Rasmei Kampuchea, the largest newspaper in Cambodia. He freely admits that his newspaper – like most in the country – is seen to have a bias towards Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party just as some of his competitors favour the various opposition parties. He says his and other papers are striving to introduce more balance – but that is not the view of the bloggers.

Chak Sopheap again:

SOPHEAP: I agree that the media in Cambodia is increasing and more open, but there�s still limitations. If you look at the TV nowadays there are restrictions and it�s not independent at all. Like the TV show it rolled to promote the government and mainly the ruling party. Any time that they report the news they just forecasting on the Minister of Education or Prime Minister going to distribute the � to the people or go to inaugurate a school or hospital. So it�s kind of propaganda.

BAINBRIDGE: Bloggers are a long way from being able to challenge that official propaganda with only a thousand or so active in the country – and very few of those prepared to tackle politics.

SOPHEAP: Few people like to forecasting on politics because it is very sensitive and dangerous issue as well. But there are still people like to forecasting like that, like I myself and some of my friends, their blogs are forecasting on analysing economic and politics as well.

BAINBRIDGE: After a blog entry criticising the ruling Cambodian People’s Party recently Sopheap was sent a message telling her she should run otherwise she would be killed.

She says she doesn’t expect blogs to have much influence on the election later this month but hopes that by the 2013 election Cambodia will have too many bloggers for any one Political Party to control their message.

SOPHEAP: I notice that there�s increasing numbers because one of my network they are the one who promote the blogs to Asia. They go to public schools, university and other organisations to teach people on how to blog and what is the benefit of blogs.

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