Smartphone and Internet: Weapon of Choice for Young Citizen Journalists

 

Attending the training for the first time, Mr. Noun Vansuy, a young Prey Slang activist from Preah Vihear province about 350 km away from Phnom Penh, said that he did not know such training existed before. Ruined by poverty, Vansuy could only finish primary school. The conscience of the man with less education, however, is brilliant. The willingness for environmental conservation and community common interests has earned Vansuy a great deal of respect. “My motivation to protect the environment existed several years ago. It was a day when I attended training about forestry law and I was inspired by how youth movement could help prevent deforestation,” Vansuy recalled.

Going after illegal loggers is not an easy job, and stopping them is even more difficult. It is deadly dangerous as illegal loggers are generally armed with assault rifles and sometimes protected by groups of soldiers employed by business tycoons or high-ranking government officials playing games behind the scenes. Vansuy said his team fully understands how dangerous the job is. “We fear, but we fear our trees completely disappearing more than our own safety,” Vansuy claimed. The training, according to Vansuy, was extremely useful in terms of news writing and photography skills. “Illegal loggers are armed with guns, but a gun’s operational range is limited. I am armed only with a smartphone and the internet, but my operational range is unlimited. I am committed to informing everyone of what happens in the forest. This is my weapon of choice,” said Vansuy.  

 

The same is true for Miss Yen Sreyleap, a fresh graduate student of law and English literature in 2015 and 2016 respectively. Sreyleap, who is now an intern at a local NGO working on community development in Kampong Speu and Ratanakiri provinces, said the training actually met her expectations. “I have never attended journalism training before, but now I am lucky to learn a number of important skills, such as photography, interviewing, and short news report writing skills,” Sreyleap elaborated. Even though Sreyleap’s job involves dealing with community land disputes, she said with confidence that she is afraid of nothing. “I believe in professionalism and code of ethics. I will definitely share my knowledge and experience with people in my community and encourage them to fight for equitable development and social justice for their community,” said Sreyleap, whose future career path is to join civil society groups.

Citizen journalists, or netizens, are not new terms in developed countries. But things are different in Cambodia. In the wake of a proliferation of information and communications technologies (ICT), social media has become a backbone of daily communications. ICT rapidly integrated itself into the daily lives of Cambodian people, particularly youth. Within this context, CCIM believes that the potential of social media is far greater than as a social tool. It will be much better when people understand and use social media to learn and share useful information. If people are able to use social media properly, they are unknowingly contributing to promoting access to information and freedom of expression. Therefore, CCIM is strongly convinced that training students and activists to become citizen journalists is critically important.  

 

Vansuy and Sreyleap were among the 30 participants of the three-day training workshop on citizen journalism organized by the Cambodian Center for Independent Media (CCIM), with support from DanChurchAid (DCA) Cambodia.  Equitable Cambodia (EC) and Cambodia Youth Network (CYN) invited the students and activists from four provinces to participate in the training. As at February 2017, CCIM is almost half way through the implementation of its two-year project to train young students and local activists to become citizen journalists (CJs). The training focuses not only on basic journalism skills, but also the promotion of independent media and freedom of expression, which partly contributes to CCIM’s strategic plan for 2017-2019. (Sek Sophal)