ASEAN Sidelines Journalists

FAR EAST CORRESPONDENT — Many years ago, two colleagues were wrongfully jailed in Laos for murder and as president of the Overseas Press Club of Cambodia (OPCC), I did my best to lobby for their release, a job that was made all the more easier by the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) which was holding its annual summits in Cambodia at the time.

My part in obtaining their release was very small. Others like the photographer Dan White did much more. But the incident and the ability of journalists to make themselves heard and demand answers to awkward questions highlighted the type of relationship that existed between the media and the leaders of the day.

A decade ago it was much easier to rub shoulders with members of government. Presidents, foreign ministers and genuinely senior people would call hastily arranged press conferences to discuss major issues where journalists had a voice and it was never too difficult to grab a quick and private word.

Seasoned journalists say such access is still available at summits in Indonesia and Vietnam despite the all-pervading Communist culture of politicians in Hanoi. But Thailand and Cambodia fare worse and journalists at the current summit in Phnom Penh stand more of a chance of being ticked off for failing to wear a suit and tie in the tropical heat than they have of finding an original story.

Read more from Luke Hunt in The Diplomat.

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