To join the globe to celebrate the annual World Press Feedom Day on 3rd May, Club of Cambodian Journalists organised a special discussion to celebrate the world press freedom day and review the country’s media development and challenges of freedom of the press. About two hundreds of participants from both national and international media organizations and both governmental and non-governmental bodies, including EC and UNESCO, joined the special event held on Saturday 2nd May, 2009 with a topic of Media Potential: Dialogue, Mutual Understanding, and Reconciliation.
His Excellency Khieu Kanharith, Information Minister and Government Spokesman, welcomed and appreciated the gathering to mark journalists’ crucial day. Speaking in his remarks at the event, he said CCJ has done lots of work to protect journalists and help improve their professionalism.
So far, I note that Club of Cambodia Journalists has trained a lot of journalists, especially a series of training courses on roles and responsibilities of media officials and journalists. Such courses really help improve their careers and provide good opportunity for journalists and the public relation officials to understand each other and start closely cooperating, he said. Kanharith also urges CCJ to do more in order to help improve the skills of local media practitioners.
Reading out a message of Mr Ko chiro Matsuura, Director-General of UNESCO, at the discussion, UNESCO-Cambodia Media Officer Isabel Rojo said strengthening the principles and practices of a free and professional media is the most sustainable way of encouraging a media culture that works towards building peace. Only a media, she said, that is vibrant, independent, pluralistic, inclusive and fair, editorially free and beyond censorship and influence from owners or interests can contribute to dialogue and reconciliation across divides.
We must strengthen our efforts to build a media that is critical of inherited assumptions yet tolerant of alternative perspectives; a media that provides the information that enables people to make well-informed decisions; a media that brings competing narratives into a shared story of interdependence; a media that responds to diversity through dialogue, she read out the message. She added that by challenging prevailing attitudes and stereotypes about other cultures, religions and peoples, the media can help to strip away the ignorance that breeds mistrust and suspicion, thus promoting tolerance and an acceptance of difference that values diversity as an opportunity for understanding.
Speaking in his welcoming remarks, Mr. Pen Samitthy, CCJ President, also read out CCJ message to the event saying that the World Press Freedom Day this year is coming at a time when the world is facing with economic crisis, leading to the slow down of business operation of some media companies.
Focusing on the local media situation, he said the World Press Freedom Day is always an opportunity for journalists in Cambodia and the world to look at and highlight the importance of press freedom in development, peace, and democracy in Cambodia and the world as a whole.
Responding to ranking of the Cambodian Press Freedom made by Reporters without Border (sliding backward to 126 in 2008 among the 173 while it ranked 85 in 2007) Samitthy said The worse ranking was caused by murders of a journalist and his son during the 2008 election campaign, which was condemned by the national and international communities. And even though, the Cambodian authorities, with the FBI support, are making their effort to arrest the murderers, they are still at large. In addition, the arrests and threats against journalists increased in 2008-2009. Threats against the journalists jumped to 14 cases from 7 cases in 2007-2008. The journalists, who were arrested, rose to 10 from 6.
CCJ with support from Konrad Adenauer Foundation, he said, seeks the spirit of dialogue, mutual understanding, and reconciliation to become the motto for journalists from different political tendencies, through which the Cambodian issues are solved, making possible honest discussion, mutual understanding based on the existing laws, and reconciliation which prioritizes the national interest.
The celebration of the World Press Freedom Day eared widespread media coverage by a number of TV stations including TVK, leadings newspapers in Cambodia, and last but not least a several radio stations.
The discussion was followed by a friendship dinner.
Phonm Penh, 03 May 2009
Club of Cambodian Journalists