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‘Don’t fall under foreign influence to turn people against the government’

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Government spokesman Phay Siphan. Heng Chivoan

‘Don’t fall under foreign influence to turn people against the government’

Government spokesman Phay Siphan called on Cambodian journalists on Thursday not to fall under foreign influence designed to turn people against the government.

The call came during an open-door meeting led by Siphan with spokespersons from the government and each ministry in which ministry spokespersons were urged to be more forthcoming in speaking with the media.

Prime Minister Hun Sen appointed the inter-ministerial committee of spokespersons on June 10.

Reporters had a duty to contribute to maintaining the continued peace, stability and development of the country, Siphan said.

“Our journalists are to contribute to safeguarding Cambodian sovereignty. This sovereignty does not belong to any one individual – it belongs to us all after we lost sovereignty in the 1970s,” Siphan said.

Siphan continued that some journalists were under foreign influence and biased, driven by jealousy to find evidence against their own government.

“I cite as a clear example, reporters trained by foreigners who don’t dare use Prime Minister Hun Sen’s honorific [Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo] because they think that if they do then it is vaunting the government,” Siphan said.

Ouk Kimseng, under-secretary of state at the Ministry of Information, who attended Thursday’s meeting, spoke of reporters’ complaints of encountering difficulties in getting information from some spokespersons.

However, he said there was more than one spokesperson at each ministry, there could be more than three, and should reporters fail to reach one, they should try another.

“There are those [spokespersons] who shy away from reporters. I think they should speak with reporters because they have nothing to be afraid of. Give the reporters the information,” Kimseng said.

Voice of America reporter Sun Narin said that Siphan should not have made such remarks as trained journalists would themselves know what should and shouldn’t be reported.

“Our country is developing. There are things to be learned from foreigners, and studying under them does not mean they exert any influence over us. We must speak for ourselves . . . if we don’t, then who will speak for us?"

“We have had training courses in China, the US and various other countries, so when it comes to foreigners exerting influence, which country is doing so?"

“Cambodian journalists love their country. All Cambodians love their nation, but we show this by doing different activities,” Narin said.

Moeun Chhean Narith, the director of the Cambodian Institute for Journalism, said on Thursday that as a trainer of young reporters, he would accept the recommendations.

However, journalists with professional ethics would not allow bias to affect their reporting.

He said that some media outlets received funding from their government, and still produced articles critical of any misconduct.

“I cite the example of the British Broadcasting Corporation, the BBC. The BBC receives a budget from the UK government, but if it or its officials do something wrong, the BBC will criticise as they do so out of duty as professional journalists,” Chhean Narith said.

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