Challenges for Independent Media Reports

Challenges for Independent Media Report 2015

 

The year 2015 saw a slight reprieve in the violence against journalists that marred the previous year, when two journalists were murdered in the line of work, but simultaneously saw an uptick in the prosecutions of netizens for speaking their mind on the Internet, and Facebook in particular. Among those prosecuted for engaging in online free expression in 2015 were opposition lawmakers, students and a migrant worker.

Though journalists have so far avoided lawsuits related to reports posted online, the prosecutions of citizens have had a chilling effect, with 58% of those surveyed in CCIM’s Annual Attitudes Survey of Professional Journalists saying they did not feel completely free to report on all subjects without fear of interference or repercussions — a more than 10% increase over the year before. Strikingly, almost a third of journalists who did not always feel free to report said they felt that way due to pressure from their own editors, producers, publishers or news outlet owners, and the majority of journalists (53%) said their news outlet was not completely independent, or free from influences by political or business interests.

Despite these concerns over the lack of media independence and the rise in self-censorship, the majority of journalists included in the survey saw the country’s media industry as steadily improving. Almost 71% of those surveyed for the 2015 report agreed that the media sector was headed in the right direction, again representing a more positive view than the year before, during which just 63% of journalists took a positive view of their industry’s progress.

As with the 2014 survey, a number of journalists in this year’s research pointed to the Internet as their source of optimism for the future of Cambodian media. The Internet is the country’s fastest-growing medium and in 2015 reached 39% of the population, overtaking radio’s No. 2 slot for audience and reach. The Internet is now exceeded in its reach only by television, which maintains a nearly 96% penetration rate. However, despite the promise posed for independent media by the rise of the Internet, optimism should be tempered by the reality of increasing efforts to restrict online free speech, including the draft Cybercrime Law, as well as by the fact that only about 24% of Internet users report using the medium to access news and information, according to recent research.

Overall, the progress made toward increased media independence in 2015 was mixed. While journalists expressed optimism about the direction in which their sector was heading, at least part of their optimism was linked to the rise of the Internet, which is increasingly under threat. Other sources of optimism included the reduction in killings and violence against journalists as compared to the year before, but this reduction comes at a time when journalists reported increasingly engaging in self-censorship, raising concerns that journalists’ optimistic outlook for their sector may not be entirely merited, and that efforts to produce uncensored, independent media might still be met with opposition in the future.

Challenges for Independent Media Report 2014

 

2014 was a notable year for journalism in Cambodia, with    no shortage of news to cover,     starting    with the labor and political protests in  the  first  months of  the  year  and culminating in the historic negotiations in July that ended a year-long political gridlock. But in the midst of these historic events, Cambodian journalists increasingly found themselves in the news, as reporters faced injury and even death for covering the news. 2014 proved the deadliest year for Cambodian journalists since the political turmoil of 1997, with two Cambodian journalists confirmed murdered in relation to their work and a third, foreign journalist found dead under suspicious circumstances.

Nonetheless, a survey of professional journalists conducted by the Cambodian Center for Independent Media (CCIM) in November and December found that the majority of journalists feel the country’s media sector is headed in the right direction. Many respondents attributed this     feeling to the rise of the Internet, and particularly social media and smartphones, in facilitating real-time access to news and     spurring online debate and discussion over current events.

But even in the midst of a Cambodian Internet revolution that is changing the way journalists and citizens alike access information, the vast majority of journalists surveyed for this report indicated that the country’s lack of an Access to Information Law hinders their ability to report the news. Moreover, almost half of journalists did not feel completely free to report on all issues without interference or fear of repercussions. Discouragingly, aside from the expected sources of repercussions, such as local authorities and politicians, more    than a quarter of respondents said they faced interference or repercussions
from within their own media organization, typically from owners or publishers.

This report highlights the key findings of the recent survey of Cambodian journalists and examines notable developments and challenges within the Cambodian media industry in 2014, ending with a number of recommendations for improving and expanding the independence of Cambodian media in 2015 and beyond.

Challenges for Independent Media Development in Cambodia Report 2013

Created in 2007, the Cambodian Center for Independent Media (CCIM) is an independent organization committed to using media production and capacity building as tools for promoting social justice and change. Its goal is to promote democratic governance by creating a pluralistic and independent media environment in Cambodia. Its primary medium for doing this is VOD radio, which is broadcast through the radio station Sarika FM in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, and online through www.vodhotnews.com. CCIM also publishes news content, research and reports online through its website.

The political environment in Cambodia has played, and continues to play a central role in shaping the country's media landscape. Although technically (according to the Constitution and political framework that was created after the Paris Peace Agreements of 1991) Cambodia is a liberal parliamentary democracy, the party which has ruled for much of the time since - the Cambodian People's Party (CPP) - has established and maintained an authoritarian rule. A significant consequence and enabler of their continued stronghold has been their control over the media in Cambodia. Although there are sections of the media which can be considered independent, and civil society organizations and NGOs such as CCIM work arduously to keep and increase this independence, much of the media in Cambodia today (television, radio, print and online) is controlled by the government. This control comes in the form of direct or indirect ownership, censorship and influence by way of manipulation of the law. For example, the widespread practice of self-censorship among Cambodian media professionals has been borne out of a fear of being prosecuted for criminal offences under the country's penal code for reporting on issues which highlight any controversial activities by the government.

It is within this context that CCIM operates, working to promote democratic governance, freedom of expression and independent media. It does this by reporting on news that impacts the daily lives of citizens, giving the public a forum to voice their opinions, conducting research to both inform public awareness and use as evidence to lobby government to act on key issues, conducting training for professional and citizen journalists and facilitating opportunities for media professionals to come together and establish common standards and codes of conduct.

All of the work that was done in this vein during the three-year period from January 2009 to December 2011 fell under the scope of CCIM's Enhancing Independent Media in Cambodia project. This report provides a detailed summary of the initiatives which were carried out as part of the project, as well as an overview of the outcomes of the project as a whole, the challenges that CCIM faces moving forward and the plans it holds for the future.

 

 

 

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