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Vox Pop: When journalists speak

20.05.2013

Journalists and media lecturers from Cambodia, Malaysia and Myanmar gave insight about the media environment, constraints and how they want to see improvement in their countries.

 

 

Nay Phone Latt, citizen journalist, blogger and trainer in ICT, from Myanmar

Nay Phone Latt

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“Citizen journalism can improve transparency in the country. A [professional] journalist cannot go everywhere. If there is something happening in one area, the first people to know about it are the locals. So, if the local people have the capacity to write news and share it with the mainstream media, we will know about the news more quickly.

These days there are many citizen journalists around the country and we should increase their numbers, nurture them, and empower them.

Citizen journalism is like a light. If there are journalists in the area, it’s as putting a spot light on that area. Any unfairness will less likely to occur.

In the past, what we could do was very limited. Now we can do so many things thanks to the recent Constitution and the political shift.  Now, we [NGOs] can go around the country and give training to people and speak about what the democracy is. In the past, we couldn’t do that.

In the past, the number of newspapers was limited, just two or three. Now, there are many, representing various views. In the past, the news was produced by the government or those related to it.  If people wanted to say something to the government, they didn’t have a chance. But now, we can say it through journals, blog, or Facebook.”

Bun Y Ung

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Bun Y Ung, media lecturer, from Cambodia

“I want to see more independent and diversified news agencies for people to be exposed to different news, ideas, and opinions,  so that they can make informed decisions.”

“Very few of our graduates, only one or two, actually go in to the field of journalism after graduation. We accept 30 students per year and about 20 of them complete the curriculum.  About 10 drop out because they receive scholarship overseas or find a job.

Media environment in Cambodia is not friendly and working as a journalist can be risky. Cases of intimidation and killings of journalists have been reported. Most of the media in Cambodia is not independent. Students cannot apply what they learn in school to their work places. They can only apply it when they work in foreign owned media agencies.

Many students go into communications and advertising, mainly being a communications officer in local or international NGOs. A communications officer earns about 450US$ per month in a local NGO and 700-800US$ in an international NGO. Journalists earn much less. A journalist in a local news agency receives around 100US$ per month and in a foreign news agency 350US$ per month.

I see a possibility in an online platform. It’s freer than any media in Cambodia. You can express your feelings. Through my blog, twitter and Facebook, I can communicate my opinions on social issues such as traffic or women but I do avoid sensitive issues like land [ownership], corruption and human rights.”

I want to see more independent and diversified news agencies for people to be exposed to different news, ideas, and opinions, so that they can make informed decisions.

Pauline Leong

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Pauline Leong, lecturer in media law and ethics and former journalist, from Malaysia

“For journalists, it is crucial to verify the source of information they receive and do a necessary fact checking before using the information to publish an article. But sometimes it is not easy.”

“Journalists need to adapt to the fast pace of online news. The reliability of information found on internet is sometimes questionable.  Many people are now very good at creating videos, pictures or graphics and when they are posted on social media, viewers believe them even when the information is manipulated.  

For journalists, it is crucial to verify the source of information they receive and do a necessary fact checking before using the information to publish an article. But sometimes it is not easy.

For readers, knowledge about media literacy is necessary. Media literacy is about being able to read a news report and don’t take it as the gospel truth. They have to understand that some media are biased and partisan. Some are conservative and some are liberal. True media literacy is based on the ability to be aware of that and to question the media and the news report they read.

In Malaysia, quite a lot of journalists do not receive adequate training and therefore are not aware of critical issues in journalism.  Newsrooms don’t dedicate enough amount of time or money to training young journalists even though basic knowledge and awareness that could be acquired through on job training could help avoid detrimental results for the newsrooms. .”

Chanthorn Ing

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Chanthorn Ing, news editor, from Cambodia

“Some media institutions don’t care much about professionalism as they are more business oriented.”

 “Cambodia media have made some progress. There are more independent media institutions and a good number of reporting news agencies. But when it comes to reporting, only a few dare to touch sensitive stories. It is also hard to find qualified reporters.

There are many media institutions but the overall quality is low. Very few are independent.  Part of it is because the media lack financial support. If the news agency receives money from a certain donor, its reporting must comply with the donor. If the news agency wants to be independent, it needs to be self-sustained.

Some media institutions don’t care much about professionalism as they are more business oriented.  I talked to some reporters and they said they are aware that some of their reporting is not ethical but they do it for benefit.  Newspaper sells better when it covers a story about a terrible accident or prints naked pictures.

About five years ago when I began my career as a reporter, I noticed that most news agencies focus mainly on entertainment, but more serious news have been featured in the past few years. People are becoming more aware that news is important as it affects their daily lives. . 

I want to see media in Cambodia serve the public, not a specific group of people. I want to see independent media because independent media can contribute to the development of the country.

I also see development in online platform and there are many websites focusing on news that are shared by the readers through social media. People can get different kinds of information and news but sometimes their sources are unclear and difficult to identify.”

Zaw Gyi

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Zaw Gyi, editor of ethic news media, from Myanmar

“I became a journalist four years ago because I felt that people in the outside world should know about ethnic areas [of Myanmar]. By reporting news about ethnicity, international communities as well as Burmese people can understand the issue better. People need to be aware of the broader picture and understand what is happening in different parts of the country.  

When it comes to news reporting, generally, when journalists hear that something is happening they try to get more information by phone from stringers, local civil society and NGO groups, but the communication system is very weak.  They can rarely travel to the areas due to lack of staff and financial means. There are few internet cafés in the area but the infrastructure is far from complete.  

Training is necessary for journalists to get appropriate skills. News agencies need well-trained people as well as financial support to function properly.”

By Rojana Manowalailao, UNESCO Bangkok