Cambodia to Sanction 800 Journalists for Freeloading from One Casino

Posted on: January 3, 2024, 07:14h. 

Last updated on: January 3, 2024, 12:34h.

Cambodia’s Ministry of Information is threatening to sanction 828 “journalists” it accuses of extorting “rice, water, gasoline” and other freebies from a border casino, The Khmer Times reports.

Top Diamond Casino, Cambodia
The Top Diamond Casino in Phnom Den, Takeo Province, Cambodia, claims that more than 800 journalists have been asking for comps, and it can no longer sustain its generosity. (Image: Influencer News)

In September, the Top Diamond Casino in Takeo Province posted on social media to complain of “between 700 and 900” individuals claiming to represent the media who had used their press cards to freeload from the casino every month.

Information Ministry spokesman Tep Asnarith said that 192 journalists from 107 media outlets, 170 men and 22 women, have been interviewed. The ministry is preparing to “take legal action” against the remaining 636 who have not made themselves available, he added.

“The Ministry of Information is preparing relevant procedures to deal with these people,” Asnarith added.

Free(-loading) Press?

It’s unclear whether the claims against the journalists are genuine or part of the Cambodian government’s ongoing war against press freedom. Reporters are poorly paid in the country and corruption is rife. This can encourage them to get paid directly by the institutions they cover in return for a good writeup.

But it seems unusual that so many journalists would be hanging around a sleepy town on the Vietnam border writing about a casino unless many were simply posing as journalists.

According to the Cambodian Journalists Alliance (CamboJA), the country’s authoritarian government is intent on muzzling independent media. Meanwhile, the English-language newspaper, The Khmer Times, the source of the story, is strongly pro-government in its reporting and editorials.

The story was also reported in The Phnom Penh Post, whose takeover in 2018 by a businessman with strong government ties prompted Amnesty International to bemoan “the crumbling of Cambodia’s media freedom.”

Last year, the government shut down Voice of Democracy (VOD), one of the last remaining independent news organizations in the country.

“The ruling party is concerned about the role of independent media in the country, which are not under government control,” Nop Vy, executive director of CamboJA, told Reuters last year.

Media Ethics

Vy is also quoted in The Khmer Times as saying the incident was very damaging to the reputation of journalists in Cambodia.

The preventive measures are to educate, strengthen the understanding of media, and provide professional training to journalists with the collective participation of all the stakeholders involved,” he said. “When journalists perform their work in accordance with their roles and responsibilities, along with ethics and professionalism, their reputation in the society will get better.”

In a press release, the ministry admonished all journalists to adhere to the press law and warned against ethical breaches that “tarnish the honor of the media and disrupt order.” It vowed to pursue legal action against any further violations of press regulations.