The Fojo managed “Southeast Asia Media Training Network (MTN) 2016-2019” works to strengthen six journalism, media and communication training institutes and centres in four Southeast Asian countries: Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Vietnam. The programme started early this year and focuses initially on a combination of building capacity of individual institutes and of joint processes of sharing and learning among the partners.
The Cambodia Communication Institute (CCI) initially requested support in the first step of a transformation and consolidation process through formulation of a first strategic plan and a business plan to accompany it. This process is presently unfolding. With the support from a media development and strategic planning specialist, advanced drafts of the strategic and business plans are being finalised.
The CCI History and Context
CCI was established in 1991 by the Government of Cambodia in partnership with UNESCO as the country’s first journalism, media and communication training institute. CCI’s purpose was to strengthen the public participation in national development towards democracy through improved quality of information and the development of an independent press in Cambodia. Originally based in the Ministry of Information, CCI has worked in different institutional frameworks. It is now based in the Royal University of Phnom Penh (RUPP) with a mandate to carry out mid-career journalism training.
The media environment in Cambodia
In the 2016 Freedom House barometer, the Cambodian media landscape is characterized as ‘not free’ and a net freedom score is ‘partly free’. Media practitioners highlight, that when staying within the boundaries of professionalism and practices of good reporting, the lack of full freedom is rarely felt. Still sensitivity means that many journalists and editors refer to self-censorship as a part of the reality as practising media professionals in Cambodia.
In terms of a legal, enabling environment for the media, stating that the media in Cambodia operate in a legal vacuum is a slight exaggeration, but there is no general legal framework for operation and production of media. The 1995 Press Law directed at the print media is the only legal framework for the operation of media In Cambodia. This means that the access to licenses and operation of broadcast media as well as internet-based media – and converged media realities – have no legal framework(s) to refer to. This also means that there is no legal structure to protect media practitioners and media houses, except for those operating within the print media area.
Presently an Access to Information (A2I) law has been drafted and is waiting for the formal, legal approval procedures. CCI engages in this work, and intends to continue this process with partners, to address other areas where the media need more legislation and clarity of operation.
As a measure to regulate the use of internet-based and social media, a draft Cyber Crime Law was presented 2016 proposing to introduce heavy restrictions on internet freedom. Due to intense civil society protests, the law has been withdrawn, and it is not known whether it is being redrafted or is shelved for good. Civil society fears that it will be quietly passed one day.
CCI taking the next steps for positive change
It is this media and communication environment that CCI wants to infuse with increased professionalism and help decrease the current pressure from the social and political environment, also to redress the lack of recognition and prestige around the journalist profession.
During the 26-year history of the CCI, the needs of the media houses and the Cambodian media landscape have changed importantly. To become a catalyst for positive change in the media and communication sector in Cambodia, CCI therefore wants to systematically and strategically plan its way forward.
The CCI Strategic Plan
The Fojo-supported work process included skype-meetings between the CCI-team and the consultant to facilitate a mutual briefing on the one hand on the reality and needs of the CCI, on the other, the consultant proposed a participatory process, where the team could develop their own strategic and business plans.
Based on a good briefing with the Fojo Project Manager in Bangkok, the five-day work period in Phnom Penh provided an initial insight into the media and press freedom environment, the situation of the media in the country, and a first understanding of the institutional framework of the institute and its work.
Based on these meetings, a 2½ day workshop represented the core work space and time to carve out the elements of the strategic and business plans. The workshop took place at the CCI premises in RUPP between the CCI team and the consultant.
During these days the Consultant functioned as the process facilitator, securing full participation in the debates on identifying the
strategic direction of CCI in the future (Vision, Mission and Values & Principles); carrying out the
strategic analysis of the external environment for CCI’s development and the internal realities (including the SWOT); bringing the groups forward to identification of the five strategic thematic work areas to underpin the CCI’s realisation of its mission and the work towards the CCI vision. These areas were furthermore analysed and detailed steps needed for the realisation of the goals of the five work areas were prepared.
The CCI team is now finalising the two plan documents, which will be the first strategic and business plans for the Institute. The CCI team expressed their satisfaction with the process, realising that they did, indeed, possess most of the information needed for the plans, and with the strategic, systematic framework and analysis provided, they will, when ready, in their hands have a tool, which can guide them – effectively and efficiently – forward. A good situation, where the team realised the power of well-designed strategic plan, where the next implementation steps can be easily identified.
CCI at the centre of media development – convening actors and partners, for change
Moving from the strategic planning to the elaboration of the CCI business plans, CCI gained clarity about their position, their strengths and weaknesses within the Cambodian media environment – and CCI could see its own role and responsibility, when looking to other partners in the media landscape, operating in the same area.
The mapping showed that CCI is the only full-time mid-career training institute in Cambodia. Other actors engage with ad hoc training of mid-career journalists most often as an component in a particular process or project where journalists for instance are getting an upgrade in environmental journalism. Such thematic training activities are important but do not address the core challenge in the Cambodian media landscape of basic journalistic skills in investigative journalism. CCI realised that the ad hoc training courses carried out by other providers, could best be considered a welcome complementary activity to CCI’s work.
The Institute’s basic response to the competition is, as such, to engage with ‘competitors’ in partnerships, recognizing that the need for capacity building in the media sector in Cambodia is so important that there is need for all.
On this basis CCI plans to take on the convening role and power that its preferential position offers, convening an advisory board of partners, colleagues and ‘competitors’, to share its analysis and understanding of the media landscape and the challenges at hand, in order to, together, identifying viable solutions and ways forward – with a clear role for everyone.
Moving forward with a clear direction, based on analysis and certainty
This and other realisations came maybe not as a surprise, but with more clarity and in a systematic and well documented framework during the intense work period in June. And taking such a lead is easier, when you know your own place in the operational environment. So, you can say that ‘Knowing where you want to go, gets you there’, but also that ‘Knowing where you want to go, opens new opportunities!’