Report on Round Table Discussion on New Media and Impact on Politics

12Round Table Discussion on ” New Media and Impact on Politics”

Phnom Penh (31 December, 2010): To view the impact on politics while new media in the country is a bit booming, Club of Cambodian Journalists (CCJ) with support from Konrad Adenauer Stifstung (KAS) conducted a special discussion on the topic with a group of over 60 media and NGO people on Friday 31 December, 2010.

Speaking in his session focusing on “How politicians use the new media for their political campaign, what impact does the new media have on politics? How popular is the new media in Cambodia? Cambodian Political Leaders and New Media”, Mr. Penn Samitthi, CCJ President and the General Director of the online news: said that a few of Cambodian politicians are using new media to attract their supporters.

He said Prime Minister Hun Sen, Opposition Party Leader Sam Rainsy, and former first Prime Minister Prince Norodom Raranriddh, including other politicians, are using their own Facebook to communicate their respective supporters.  “We do not know if they set up their Facebook accounts by themselves or their supporters helped them to set up the accounts. However, this is a tactic to use new media in political campaign,” he said.

However, he said, new media still has little impact on politics in Cambodia even though it is important.

In his session on “WikiLeaks and its impact on global politics: the history of WikiLeaks, its secret information’s impact on the US relationships with foreign countries, including Cambodia, lessons learnt for the Cambodian politicians”, Mr. Chhay Sophal, CCJ Board Member, said that with the experience that WikiLeaks began publishing 251,287 leaked United States embassy cables — the largest set of confidential documents ever to be released in the public domain — on 28 November 2010, Cambodian politicians from both the ruling and opposition parties, and other politicians, including civil society workers, should be careful with their personal or secret talk to foreign diplomats about negative issues of local opponents, neighboring countries, international communities, non-alliance countries. Otherwise something would be leaked.

“Through WikiLeaks, Cambodia can see clearly what others talked about it and its leaders in the past. Based on the secret cable released by WikiLeaks, Singaporean Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew on 30 May, 2009 told US Deputy Secretary of States James Steingburg at the Singapore’ President Place that Cambodia is a pre- eminence in Southeast Asia and that within hours, everything that is discussed in ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) meetings is known in Beijing, given China close ties with Laos, Cambodia, and Burma”, Mr Sophal told the meeting. He said according to the cables Thai Air Chief Marshal Siddhi Savetsila and a member of Thai King’s Privy Council at his home on Jan 11, 2010 told US Ambassador to Bangkok Eric John that Cambodian Premier Hun Sen and ex-Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra were convincing to “destroy our country”.

Mr. Sophal also reminded that though Wikileaks can release the secret documents of other nations, companies, institutions, and individuals around the world based on the principles from Articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, particularly Article 19 stating that” everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers”. However, Cambodian outlets and practitioners should think about the country’s constitution, press law, and the new penal code which came into effect on December 10, 2010, and other related laws on publishing documents for the public in order to avoid any complaints or accusations from the government and the courts.

Sharing hi experience in a session on “New media and its risks for Professional Journalism: new media and anarchy of information, new media as political propaganda, new media’s impact on professional journalism, what should journalists do to protect professional journalism”, Mr. Pen Bona, Radio France International Correspondent, said while new media is providing good opportunity to journalists to get huge information in easy and quick ways, journalists must be careful with confidential and unreliable sources and privacy invasion.

He also urged journalists to improve and strengthen their profession as they use the new media.