Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Use honorifics, ministry tells foreign media

Use honorifics, ministry tells foreign media

Media representatives attend a meeting at the Ministry of Information yesterday in Phnom Penh.
Media representatives attend a meeting at the Ministry of Information yesterday in Phnom Penh. Sen David

Use honorifics, ministry tells foreign media

The Ministry of Information yesterday questioned foreign-backed and English-language publications in the Kingdom, including the Post, over why they had not complied with a December letter asking them to use honorifics bestowed on Cambodian leaders, threatening “action” including potentially pulling licences if non-compliance continued.

Sixteen foreign news outlets, including radio, newspaper and wire services, were asked why they were not using honorific titles given to political leaders and if there were any objections or difficulty to using them.

“We are meeting today to find out from all of you what are the difficulties and why are you not using the titles, bestowed by the King, for top leaders in your media outlets?” said Ouk Kimseng, adviser and spokesman to the ministry, addressing participants at the meeting.

In December, the ministry issued a letter asking all media outlets to use the royally bestowed title of “samdech” when referring to King Norodom Sihamoni and political leaders, including Prime Minister Hun Sen and Heng Samrin.

The title “samdech”, the ministry said, meant “outstanding leadership and love from the people” and had legal value, a “kind of respect”, when referring to these people. At the time, Kimseng said that there were no regulations to punish outlets that did not comply with the “samdech” directive.

But Phos Sovan, director-general at the General Department of Information and Broadcasting, yesterday told attending news organisations that the ministry will now take “action” on the matter, including potentially rescinding licences, adding that local outlets had already complied.

“When they come to request a license from ministry, they promise to obey the conditions of the ministry, but when the ministry suggests using the title of top leaders in their media, they do not obey it,” Sovan said.

Moeun Chhean Nariddh, who heads the Cambodian Institute of Media Studies, said it was unreasonable to impose those types of regulations on independent media publications, adding that the “samdech” directive should be optional.

“The government has taken to stereotype all publications that do not support them,” he said. “Their policy is: if you are not on our side, then you are not independent.”

He said while local-language papers could use the honorific titles, they would make no sense to readers of foreign publications. “Even the King, who has a long line of titles, has never asked for anyone to put his entire title,” he added.

Pen Bona, president of the Club of Cambodian Journalists, said that while there were no laws to enforce the usage of “samdech”, it was a matter of tradition. “Each country always has their own traditions and customs,” he said, “I don’t think it will affect their professionalism [to use these titles].”

MOST VIEWED

  • Hong Kong firm done buying Coke Cambodia

    Swire Coca-Cola Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hong Kong-listed Swire Pacific Ltd, on November 25 announced that it had completed the acquisition of The Coca-Cola Co’s bottling business in Cambodia, as part of its ambitions to expand into the Southeast Asian market. Swire Coca-Cola affirmed

  • Cambodia's Bokator now officially in World Heritage List

    UNESCO has officially inscribed Cambodia’s “Kun Lbokator”, commonly known as Bokator, on the World Heritage List, according to Minister of Culture and Fine Arts Phoeurng Sackona in her brief report to Prime Minister Hun Sen on the night of November 29. Her report, which was

  • NagaWorld union leader arrested at airport after Australia trip

    Chhim Sithar, head of the Labour Rights Supported Union of Khmer Employees at NagaWorld integrated casino resort, was arrested on November 26 at Phnom Penh International Airport and placed in pre-trial detention after returning from a 12-day trip to Australia. Phnom Penh Municipal Court Investigating Judge

  • Sub-Decree approves $30M for mine clearance

    The Cambodian government established the ‘Mine-Free Cambodia 2025 Foundation’, and released an initial budget of $30 million. Based on the progress of the foundation in 2023, 2024 and 2025, more funds will be added from the national budget and other sources. In a sub-decree signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen

  • Two senior GDP officials defect to CPP

    Two senior officials of the Grassroots Democratic Party (GDP) have asked to join the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), after apparently failing to forge a political alliance in the run-up to the 2023 general election. Yang Saing Koma, chairman of the GDP board, and Lek Sothear,

  • Cambodia's poverty cut in half from 2009 to 2019: World Bank report

    A report published by the World Bank on November 28 states that Cambodia’s national poverty rate fell by almost half between 2009 and 2019, but the Covid-19 pandemic recently reversed some of the poverty reduction progress. Cambodia’s poverty rate dropped from 33.8 to 17.8 per cent over the 10