Citizen Journalists in Cambodia, Thailand, and Myanmar at Risk

by Vins

Citizen journalists in Myanmar, Cambodia, and Thailand “risk harassment, detention, and economic hardship for their work,” according to an October 2022 report for Global Voices by Mong Palatino. Restrictions on journalism in these countries has made it nearly impossible for journalists to do their jobs. Palatino’s report gave voice to citizen journalists whose work aims to “promote freedom of expression amid rising censorship and repression.”

As Palatino noted, citizen journalists are often crucial sources of credible information, “especially in communities where local conflicts and protests are not consistently covered by mainstream media.”

Since the February 2021 coup in Myanmar, the junta revoked the licenses of more than a dozen independent media outlets, and many journalists have faced detention. Citizen journalists in Myanmar reported having their phones inspected by junta forces, difficulties covering interrogation centers, and the confusion caused by misinformation from government sources, including the military.

In Thailand, citizen journalists face questions about their credibility and struggle to file their stories without the legal protections afforded conventional reporters. A report issued by the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand found that citizen journalists “remain without official standing or legal protection” and there was “no immediate chance for improvement.”

In Cambodia, citizen journalists have successfully reported on land disputes and other local issues, supported by the Cambodian Center for Independent Media (CCIM), which helps train and support citizen journalists. Many of these people said direct experience of social injustices motivated them to become citizen journalists themselves. Some citizen journalists go on to become full-time journalists, such as Kheang Sokmean, who observed that, “when professional journalists are barred” from disputed sites, citizen journalists are the only news purveyors able to “give voice to the voiceless” and provide alternatives to official police statements of what happened.

The challenges to and importance of citizen journalism in countries such as Myanmar, Cambodia, and Thailand have received limited coverage. In February 2022, the Voice of America (VOA) produced a story about how citizen journalists in Myanmar have fought back against the military crackdown.

Source: Mong Palatino, “Citizen Journalists Face Challenges in Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar,” Global Voices, October 19, 2022.

Student Researcher: Rachel Arion (Salisbury University)

Faculty Evaluator: Jennifer Cox (Salisbury University)