Cambodia and several countries in the region are stepping up efforts to enhance cooperation in the field of information sharing, including efforts to combat misinformation or fake news.

This commitment was made during the 16th Conference of the ASEAN Ministers Responsible for Information (AMRI), and the 7th Conference of the AMRI Plus Three, held in the Vietnamese coastal city of Da Nang on September 22-23.

Minister of Information Neth Pheaktra attended the forums, where he met with several of his counterparts from the ASEAN Plus Three (China, Japan and South Korea).

The conference, themed “Media: From Information to Knowledge for a Resilient and Responsive ASEAN”, addressed enhancing collaboration in the realm of information and media with the plus three nations.

The agenda included capacity building, human resource development, enhancement of media cooperation and expansion of media networks.

On September 23, Pheaktra met with Sun Yeli, director of the State Council Information Office and deputy head of the Publicity Department of the Communist Party of China (CPC), to reiterate their commitment to media cooperation.

Pheaktra explained that both sides intend to collaborate to strengthen and expand the sector.

“I also held bilateral meetings with my Thai counterparts to explore collaboration between our respective information ministries, with a specific focus on combating misinformation,” he said in a September 23 social media post.

He also held a meeting on September 22 with his counterpart from Timor-Leste, Expedito Loro Dias Ximenes, who proposed that the two nations arrange visits for Timor-Leste journalists to gain insights into Cambodia’s information landscape.

Pheaktra declared the Kingdom ready to collaborate with Timor-Leste. They also discussed strategies for countering disinformation in the digital age.

He also met with Ahmad Fahmi bin Mohamed Fadzil, Malaysian digital communications minister, on the same day to discuss cooperation on combating fake news and share expertise in disseminating accurate information.

“In today’s digital society, people predominantly source information from social media platforms, notably Facebook, and [video-sharing app] TikTok. While these platforms offer a wide array of content at a rapid pace, they also grapple with the issue of spreading misinformation, often driven by malicious intent,” explained Pheaktra.

He warned that disinformation has a detrimental effect on people’s access to reliable information. At times, false claims have led to societal disruption and the erosion of personal dignity, creating misguided individuals and undermining public trust. Consequently, there is a collective need for cooperation to uphold clarity and accuracy in reporting.

Separately on September 21, Pheaktra held discussions with his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Manh Hung. During the meeting, Nguyen expressed his readiness to support human resource training by sending Vietnamese officials to receive training at Cambodia’s vocational school for journalists.

“We reached an agreement to collaborate on establishing a mutual gateway for information exchange between our two nations. This will facilitate the sharing of information and enable our people to access news from both sides through reciprocal visits of journalists between Cambodia and Vietnam. The aim is to enhance the flow of information between us,” he explained.

Pheaktra and Nguyen signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) regarding information cooperation and the enhancement of media and broadcasting links.

A joint statement from the AMRI attendees noted that, in response to the swiftly evolving information landscape, the meeting participants called upon the media to bolster its resilience and responsiveness. This would entail becoming an active medium for inclusive lifelong learning, while also promoting digital awareness and literacy among ASEAN citizens.

“The conference emphasised the critical role of delivering timely, accurate, evidence-based and trustworthy information. This serves to enhance societal awareness and empower individuals, communities and societies,” it said.

“The meeting also called for strengthened regional collaboration to foster a conducive online environment. This includes promoting excellence in information and media literacy and delivering effective public and strategic communications,” it added.