Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday urged Cambodians to pay more attention to the news and pointed to the importance of accurate information.
“We want our people to get sufficient and accurate information complying with the truth, so we can judge” events, the prime minister said during a speech at the National Institute of Education in Phnom Penh.
“Any day I don’t have news it’s like I don’t have rice. So as a usual habit, before I came here, at least there are primary briefs, and in my phone there is news coming.”
Mr Hun Sen specifically addressed officials, businesspersons and politicians.
“Concerning the news, government officials, employers, politicians, if they lack accurate information, it is clear they won’t derive benefit from any issue concerning economics, finance, marketing, culture, science, technology or politics,” he said.
Representatives from civil society agreed that accurate news is important, but said Cambodia’s media has a long way to go to make it widely available.
“I agree with the prime minister, which is why we encourage alternative media to be able to continue, which is not the situation right now,” said Naly Pilorge, director of the human rights organization Licadho, yesterday.
“The number one problem is the actual media outlets,” she explained. “Most of them are government-aligned.”
She said television and radio are the worst offenders.
“In television, it’s simple: 100 percent is government aligned,” Ms Pilorge said. There are only a few radio stations and newspapers that don’t toe the government line, she added.
The second biggest problem with the media is access and distribution, she said, with alternative radio stations unavailable in some villages, and newspapers a luxury for poor farmers.
Moeun Chhean Narith, director of the Cambodian Institute for Media Studies, also pointed to a lack of press freedom.
“The reporter remains scared of writing a sensitive article,” he said. “They dare not write sensitive articles since they are scared of attack, physical and legal.”