Press Freedom Down, But Web Offers Optimism

Last year was the deadliest for journalists in Cambodia since 1997, according to a report released by the Cambodian Center for Independent Media (CCIM) on Thursday, but most of the media professionals surveyed by the organization believe that the industry is heading in the right direction.

The report, “Challenges for Independent Media 2014,” gathered the opinions of 78 local journalists in an effort to ascertain whether the negative perception of Cambodia’s media landscape is justified.

With two journalists killed as a result of their reporting and a third dying under suspicious circumstances in 2014, CCIM highlighted the dangers faced by the country’s media.

In addition, two global indexes by media watchdogs this year have decried a lack of press freedoms in the country. A report by U.S.-based Freedom House released Wednesday placed Cambodia’s media in the category of “not free.”

But while some 86 percent of the journalists surveyed agreed or “somewhat” agreed that Cambodia’s categorization as “not free” was warranted, 62.7 percent believed news media in the country is heading in the right direction.

The CCIM survey found that the optimism among journalists, despite factors such as government influence and the threat of violence, was mainly due to the rise of the Internet and social media.

Following a meeting of journalists Thursday to discuss the findings, Amanda King, CCIM’s communications director, said the Internet also presented significant challenges for the future.

“Thanks to the Internet, and especially social media, journalists and everyday citizens alike now have access to more information than ever before,” Ms. King said.

“But both the media and civil society alike will have to work hard over the coming year to safeguard this relatively new-found online freedom against government efforts to control and monitor [it],” she added.

Freedom House’s program manager for Southeast Asia, Russell Raymond, said in an email that CCIM’s survey was a powerful complement to his organization’s report, which found press freedom to be under threat in Cambodia.

“Amid [the] downward trend, it is important to note that opportunities to report and share independent news via the Internet represent a powerful positive development,” he said.

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