Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen seems to have forgotten who he is. Praising journalism and defending reporters? That is not the Hun Sen of yore. Yet this month, amid a trial of two Radio Free Asia reporters on “baseless espionage charges,” according to Human Rights Watch, the prime minister claimed that he is actually a friend of journalists, and what’s more, that he wants to become a mentor to reporters when he eventually retires from politics.
“I urge journalists to express themselves without fabricating the truth in their reporting,” he told a conference hall full of reporters on January 14 – the day he celebrated 35 years in power, making him one of the world’s longest-serving premiers, a feat not achieved by exalting an independent press. “Ministers must not be afraid of journalists and avoid considering them as enemies,” Hun Sen added.
Later on, he stated: “I give reporters magic powers to extend their professionalism, gain trust from the public and defend themselves before the law. But to make the most of the magic power, don’t violate the right of others and don’t distort the truth.”