Journalists Forms Group to Protect Reputation From Extortionists

A group of Siem Reap province journalists said yesterday they had founded the Siem Reap Angkor Journalist Alliance in order to protect the reputation of their profession, which has been hurt by an increasing number of people in the province who are posing as reporters in order to extort money from illegal wood smugglers.

Sou Choeun, a reporter for Khmer-language newspaper Koh Santepheap, said the alliance was formed Thursday and was officially recognized by the Ministry of Information. Mr Choeun said the organization, which has around 30 members, will monitor the practices of people claiming to be journalists.

“We plan to eliminate such anarchic practices that badly affect professional journalists’ reputations,” he said, admitting however, that it would be difficult to root out all those abusing the journalistic profession.

Provincial police have complained that illegal loggers–who mostly travel through the province at night with their contraband–are often chased by people claiming to be journalists. These people do not report for any publication, but instead threaten to print the loggers’ names in local newspapers.

Extortionists masquerading as journalists and chasing smugglers has frequently lead to traffic accidents, and four people died in Siem Reap last year in such incidents.

Mr Choeun said he witnessed a group of around 20 cars waiting alongside a road in Banteay Srei district on Monday night, while the drivers and passengers, who were claiming to be reporters, took money from three passing cars supposedly smuggling illegal timber.

Moeun Chhean Nariddh, director of the Cambodia Institute for Media Studies, welcomed the initiative saying it was up to journalists themselves to protect the reputation of their profession.

“It’s not only an issue in Siem Reap province…. Many other provinces have the problem of people posing as journalists,” he added.

(Additional reporting by Paul Vrieze)


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