Kanharith: ‘Independent press’ is about mindset, feeling no pressure

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Information minister Khieu Kanharith called on officials to refrain from considering reporters as enemies. AKP

Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith told a press conference on Tuesday that the term “independent press” does not refer to media outlets that complain about the government. Rather, “independent” refers to a mindset of writing news without feeling pressure, he said.

Kanharith called on officials to refrain from considering reporters as enemies.

The press conference covered the progress of government bodies last year and their goals for this year.

Kanharith said several foreign journalism teachers teach Cambodian students that to be called an independent reporter, one must dare to criticise and blame the government.

“For me, it is not like that. No reporter in the world can claim he is independent. No reporter must overstep the boundary set by the executive editor-in-chief. Reporters must always follow the stance of the executive editor-in-chief,” he said.

Reporters, Kanharith said, shouldn’t be persuaded to attack the government, but should carefully curate their stories.

“An independent press is from our mindset. To be called independent does not depend on people who write to attack or criticise other people or the government.

“’Independent’ is a mindset where we are not pressured by others and we write news from our ideas and philosophies following the actual situation,” he stressed.

Kanharith said officials should consider whether negative stories are right or wrong and if they have specific sources or not.

Union of Journalist Federations of Cambodia (UJFC) president Huy Vannak said on Tuesday that he did not have an opinion on independent press but urged all reporters to try to be more diligent in interviewing sources, researching material and writing stories.

If reporters know a subject well, he said that knowledge can be the foundation for them to interview officials in-depth and provide an opportunity for officials to give opinions and research good answers for the press.

“Reporters must take part in writing [stories about] national achievements and development . . . We do not only write articles, but we try to write articles that evolve naturally.

“There are things that we cannot change because it is the morality of each individual that cannot be changed.

“Someone questioned whether UJFC is independent. I would like to respond that I have never said that I am independent from the benefits of my nation,” he said.