Five Cambodian journalists were recently honored by their professional
colleagues for outstanding investigative reporting. The five top
winners of the Club of Cambodian Journalists’ “Investigative Journalism
Awards Competition”, received their awards at a ceremony in Phnom Penh.
The competition was organized with the support of the U.S. Embassy, in
order to encourage the Cambodian press to play a stronger watchdog role
in the country’s nascent democracy and advocate for greater
Mr. Oum Layum, of Rasmei Kampuchea Newspaper, took first place for his reporting on land disputes and land management issues in Cambodia’s O’Chrov area. Mr. Leang Delux, Miss Ung Chan Sophea, Mr. Hang Sokmony, and Mr. Neth Pheaktra took second through fifth place honors for reporting dealing with issues ranging from the efficiency of public services to charges of medical malpractice.
In his remarks at the awards ceremony, U.S. Ambassador Joseph Mussomeli told the journalists, “By bringing the issues you have written about to the attention of the Cambodian public, you are helping Cambodia to achieve the promise of democracy.”
“It certainly isn’t easy for a journalist to stand up against the authority of a government and the power of the wealthy to tell the people the truths others would seek to keep hidden,” said Ambassador Mussomeli. “Holding government and politicians to account is one of the most important roles the press plays in a vibrant democracy,” he said. Ambassador Mussomeli paid tribute to those journalists who work, often in great danger, to uncover corruption and mismanagement by government officials.
He noted also that “journalists have a responsibility too: to be fair and balanced; to not engage in corruption by accepting bribes or engaging in self-censorship; and of course to always consider accuracy the touchstone of their profession.”
Ambassador Mussomeli said Cambodia has made progress in press freedom. But arrests and intimidation of journalists continue. And lawsuits brought by high government officials restrict free speech and inhibit the watchdog role of the media. Cambodia’s media, said Ambassador Mussomeli, “are the custodians of conscience” for their country.