"I like reading news on Facebook" | #mediadev | DW | 05.08.2016
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"I like reading news on Facebook"

While TV is the most popular media in Cambodia, Facebook is rapidly catching up. Read about why one Cambodian gets most of her news from Facebook in our latest #mediadev portrait of people around the world using media.

Khem Sreymom, who makes her living providing small loans to garment workers in Phnom Penh, is typically Cambodian in her dislike of newspapers - only one out of 10 people in the country read them.

"I don't have money to buy newspapers and they are difficult for me to read,” says 35-year-old Sreymom, who left school in Grade Six to starting working in a garment factory.

Instead, Sreymom relies on Facebook for most of her news and information. She spends three to four hours a day on the social media site, a habit which costs her around 8.80 euro ($10) a month in mobile Internet fees.

Facebook has seen a staggering growth in Cambodia in just a few years - 34 percent of Cambodians used Facebook in 2015, up from 18 percent in 2013.

"[Facebook] is very important for my life, I gain a lot of knowledge," says Sreymom, who joined the social media site in 2013 and now has around 5,000 friends.

Sreymom's not alone in turning to Facebook as a source of information. News websites haven't really taken off yet in Cambodia. Rather Facebook is by far the most popular website in the country, accounting for around two thirds of Cambodia's total Internet use.

"When I worked as a garment worker, I only listened to the radio," says Sreymom who spent 12 years working in a factory. "Now, I like reading news on Facebook."

She says the information she finds there helps her make decisions, such as "who to chose as a leader." She also gets new ideas for her business from watching programs about business initiatives.

New media taking the place of old

Television is still the most popular media in Cambodia, with its 18 stations reaching 96 percent of Cambodians. But even though Sreymom watches TV for entertainment or to hear about local events such as traffic accidents and robberies, she says she "doesn't trust" television news to keep her informed.

"They don't broadcast news about politics or issues of human rights violations. If they report political news, [the news] is always biased," Sreymom says.

According to Cambodia's Media Ownership Monitor, of the nine main TV stations in Cambodia, seven have owners with political affiliations to the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP), in that they are either "on the government payroll or appointed as advisers."

CPP leader Hun Sen, who has been in power since 1985, is one of the longest ruling leaders in the world. He has come under heavy criticism from organizations such as Human Rights Watch for using political violence and repression to keep a grip on power.

In a climate where the ruling party indirectly controls much of the country's media, Facebook is seen as Cambodia's freest medium for expressing opinions and sharing information.

In March 2016, however, a Cambodian was convicted for the first time to 18 months in jail for an anti-government post made on Facebook. The government has also drafted a cybercrimes law that critics fear could allow authorities to further clamp down on free speech in the country.

As a result, Cambodians are now increasingly concerned about sharing or expressing opinions on social sites.

As for Sreymom, she posts selfie videos on her Facebook page when she takes part in events or demonstrations. She admits she's "afraid" of attracting government wrath and so watches what she says online.

"My friends also told me not to post or comment something bad about the government. I am careful," she says.

"But I also have the right to express my ideas and criticize where it is necessary since they are public figures."

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