Home > Local News > Constructive Cambodian: Photojournalist being apprehended

Constructive Cambodian: Photojournalist being apprehended

Sovan Philong speaks with reporters after his run in with police and security guards at a protest by Boeung Kak lake. Photo by: HENG CHIVOAN
Phnom Penh has its rich history, during which it has seen drastic
shifts in its reputation. In the 1920s, Cambodia’s capital city was
also known as the Pearl of Asia.

There aren’t many people
referring to it that way any more. City residents see that this
decade’s privatizations and urban development is coming and nobody can
stop it. All they hope for change is that Phnom Penh will be a more
charming city, matching its neighbouring cities like Bangkok and Ho Chi
Minh City, if not Manila and Kuala Lumpur. They’re hopeful that along
with this dramatic development comes prosperity and peace.

Last
week, when a Phnom Penh Post photojournalist had his two digital
cameras confiscated by security guards when he was covering a clash
with Boeung Kak residents, who were protesting, Cambodian journalists
couldn’t help but be alarmed.

As a professional photographer,
Sovan Philong was treated like a criminal and ordered to delete
photographs from his digital cameras.

Like any other journalist,
Sovan Philong’s role is to document lives of many, who have been
affected by the city growth, and would otherwise be silent. Those
photographs he took during the riot will become an invaluable draft of
history, forever on record to show how this city has changed during
this century.

But this case is an aberration in some ways.
Private firms, still scared of journalists, could learn something from
the government ministries general behaviour towards the press. They
know they must communicate with the public in some way, and therefor
select a spokesperson who carefully shares information regarding the
activities of their ministry.

This mechanism of opening lines
of communication with the public without allowing free access has been
instrumental in building Cambodia’s unique brand of democracy. This
clash with a photojournalist is not typical of their careful stance
when exposed to public scrutiny.

Perhaps more importantly,
this events reminds us all that the government and other power brokers
may be talking, but there are things they don’t want mentioned. It is
people like Sovan Philong, who was doing his job of documenting the
history of Cambodia, who might eventually create a city that is once
again called a pearl.

Phnom Penh Post
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Categories: Local News
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