In hopes of developing print media in Cambodia’s provinces, the Club of Cambodian Journalists presented results on Thursday from its survey of potential readerships in Siem Reap and Battambang provinces.
“There is no doubt that more and better information is very crucial in the democratic process and the working of the market economy. Everyone needs information,” CCJ Assistant Director Syvan Oum said in her opening remarks.
The club’s surveys in Siem Reap and Battambang sought to determine the percentage of the population that enjoys reading, the types of information that interest them, how often they would be willing to purchase a local publication and the advertising potential, Syvan Oum said.
“We strongly believe that this a great opportunity for the interest of media enterprises for their business opportunity,” she said.
CCJ Media Expansion Officer Chhay Sophal said the outlook is positive for media development in Cambodia’s more prosperous provinces, as the number of enthusiastic readers there is growing.
“It is absolutely crucial to have local newspapers and magazines at the grass-roots,” he said, adding that opportunities for commune-level reporting are plenty.
Three hundred people in Battambang and 200 in Siem Reap were surveyed, Chhay Sophal said.
In Battambang, 100 percent of men and 100 percent of women queried said they would buy locally published newspapers. In Siem Reap, 91.3 percent of men and 84.6 percent of women said that they would do the same, Chhay Sophal reported.
In Battambang, 29 percent of those surveyed said they enjoy reading business news, while 22.6 percent said they enjoy political news. In Siem Reap, 47.2 percent said they enjoy crime news, while 19.4 said they enjoy political news.
Of 73 potential advertisers surveyed in Battambang, 36 said they would be interested in buying space in a local newspaper or magazine.
Of 69 potential advertisers in Siem Reap, 57 said they would be interested in buying space in a local publication.
Information Ministry Secretary of State Khieu Kanharith, who attended the seminar, said the results of the survey could generate a lot of jobs, strengthen democracy and help people understand their rights.
But he also voiced reservations about a newspaper’s ability to compete with faster and less expensive broadcast media.
“The newspapers would have to seek support from NGOs, because the government could not support them,” he said.
Kem Sokha, director of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, warned Thursday that if future media outlets turned out to be biased or affiliated with political parties, they could damage the democratic process.
“So far, I have not discovered any Cambodian newspapers that are independent. Most Cambodian newspapers are biased toward the ruling party,” he said.