The Ministry of Interior’s National Police plans to establish its own Khmer-language newspaper to provide the public, for a fee, with accurate information on security and crime in Cambodia and to promote awareness about traffic laws and the dangers of drugs, the National Police spokesman said Sunday.
Lieutenant General Kirth Chantharith said it was too early to predict when—or if—the government-run newspaper would be launched because it still needed a green light from Interior Minister Sar Kheng.
“Our unit has a plan to establish its own newspaper but we first need to get it approved,” he said, adding that a formal request was imminent and he hoped the paper would hit the newsstands soon.
Community police newspapers reporting crime and accident statistics, and offering crime prevention advice, are not uncommon in many countries, but charging the public for the privilege of the information is.
“No, it will not be free, it will be sold like other newspapers because we need to make a profit to make the newspaper,” Lt. Gen. Chantharith said, adding that the price-per-copy and overall start-up budget had not been set yet.
The National Police will recruit professional journalists to manage the newspaper and report the news, with Ath Buny, a senior reporter at Bayon TV and former reporter for Radio Free Asia, overseeing the newspaper, Lt. Gen. Chantharith said.
The base salary for reporters would be equivalent to that of a civil servant, Lt. Gen. Chantharith said, but expected there to be an additional budget to bring pay in line with that at competing newspapers.
Unprecedented access to police sources would likely guarantee its success over questionable competitors, said Lt. Gen. Chantharith.
“I think that people will believe us much more than other newspapers because we are experts,” he said. “We are establishing this paper because most people want to know about security, accidents and to be more aware of the traffic laws.”
There is a glut of Khmer-language newspapers and television stations that are either government-controlled or run by business allies. Out of 180 countries analyzed by media rights group Reporters Without Borders for the annual World Press Freedom Index, Cambodia performed poorly, ranking a lowly 143rd last year and dropping to 144th in 2014.
The English-language Khmer Times newspaper launched last month with funding from T Mohan, a businessman with connections to the government, and with a former government spokesman on its reporting staff. Despite the government ties, the paper’s editorial policy insists on its political impartiality.
Moeun Chhean Nariddh, director of the Cambodia Institute for Media Studies, welcomed the police disseminating security information to the public, but questioned the motives of a police-run paper.
“The paper will not be popular if it has only been established to serve political ends,” he said.