Independent Cambodian News

To head straight to Churchill Downs on the first weekend in May really is to dive in at the deep end. As an Englishwoman in Kentucky, I feel lost. At the Oaks yesterday, I found myself saying the same phrase time and time again. ‘We don’t do it like that in England’. Ponying the racehorses down to the start; we don’t do that in England. Racing on a ‘dirt’ track; we don’t do that in England. The fanfare as the horses enter the track. And even the betting; I’m used to placing an each way or a win bet. Here most people seems to be putting money on a trifecta. Win, place, show? What’s that?

Perhaps the biggest difference is my pronunciation. ‘What are you doing in the States?’, people ask me. ‘I’m going to Kentucky for the “dah-bee”’, I explain, and am met with blank looks. ‘Why do you say “dah-bee”?’, someone asked. I had to stop myself from saying, ‘because that’s what it’s called’. I’ve learnt now to say “der-bee”, but I still feel like I’m putting on an accent when I say it. Oh well, at least people understand me.

But for all the differences between racing here and at home, the central tenets are the same. The hats are the same. The paddock is the same. And the name of the game is the same. After all, when it comes to racing, whatever country you’re in, it’s all about the horses.

Last night, at the Governor’s Derby Eve Gala, VP Mike Pence told the story of how, on a visit to the Coolmore Stud in Lexington, he met triple crown winner American Pharoah. ‘He bit me so hard, it left a mark and I show it to people the whole time.’ But he also spoke of his admiration for the people who work with and train the horses running today – and the horses themselves. ‘[Running a horse in the Derby] represents a lifetime of commitment’, and that’s the same all over the world. Horse racing has its critics both in the states and in the UK, but the dedication that trainers, owners, grooms and everyone who works in racing have to their horses is certainly something to be proud of. The Kentucky Derby is known as ‘the greatest two minutes in sport’. But it takes years, patience, and a huge amount of work to get to this point.

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Marc Cucurella will be packing his bags at the end of the season in order to rejoin Barcelona from Eibar.

Eibar are expected to trigger the purchase option in his loan deal of around one million euros, but the Catalans have decided that they will then take advantage of a repurchase option to take him back to the Camp Nou for 4m euros.

Cucurella has been one of the standout stars in LaLiga Santander this season after settling into life at Ipurua relatively quickly.

Impressive performances early on against Alaves and Real Madrid grabbed attention from all over Spain and he has delivered consistently since.

The youngster has played 30 games this season, with 28 of those coming in LaLiga Santander, and during these he has contributed with a goal and two assists.

Ernesto Valverde will ultimately have the last word on what lies ahead for the player and he has attracted interest from Borussia DortmundBorussia Monchengladbach and AC Milan.

On the occasion of World Press Freedom Day, an English news website was launched Friday to help revive the stifled independent media landscape in Cambodia.

“[We] established [it] because we saw the lack of independent media platforms in Cambodia that provide very independent information to the people living outside Cambodia, especially the international community,” said Nop Vy, director of the Cambodian Center for Independent Media, or CCIM.

Until recently, Voice of Democracy’s news website was written in the Cambodian language, Khmer. VOD, which published a few articles recently, hopes to fill in the gap left behind by independent news outlets that were forced to close or were sold over the past few years, Nop Vy added

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Independent newspaper The Cambodia Daily was forced to shut down in September 2017 when faced with a tax bill of $6.3 million. Additionally, Radio Free Asia closed its doors in Phnom Penh, citing pressure from the government, 30 radio stations were taken off air, and the last English independent daily newspaper, The Phnom Penh Post, was sold in May of last year.

With a new team of five to seven people, including reporters and editors, Nop Vy said he hoped the website could play “the role as the watchdog in order to monitor the actions of the government” that had previously been performed by other outlets.

This, he said, would contribute to good governance and democracy in the country.

Nop Vy said he aimed to generate income for the Khmer website and activities of CCIM in general, to which VOD belongs.Shawn Crispin, Southeast Asia representative of the Committee to Protect Journalists, welcomed the creation of the English website.

“Cambodia’s press freedom situation has deteriorated significantly in recent years due to government harassment and threats,” he said in an email. “[Cambodian Prime Minister] Hun Sen’s government clearly sees free media as a threat to his consolidation of an unchallenged one-party state.”

‘Immoral’ articles

Government official Huy Vannak, who simultaneously serves as undersecretary of state at the Interior Ministry and head of the Union of Journalist Federations of Cambodia, denied the accusation. He said press freedom was “open and wide” and that journalists who complained about a lack thereof misunderstood the concept of freedom of expression.

“I think they want to use freedom for hate speech; they want to use freedom for incitement,” he said. Journalists who said they felt they could not report freely often wrote “immoral” articles, he said, by harming other people’s or government officials’ dignity — such as calling Cambodia’s government the “Hun Sen regime.”

“If they have good intentions, and if they practice professionalism, they can do whatever [they want to do],” he said. “But the point is people misunderstand how to exercise their freedom

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‘Huge gap’ filled

Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch, echoed CPJ’s assessment. He said that while the new program “really fills a huge gap in reporting,” this was likely not a permanent solution. “Sadly, the big question is not if — but rather when — the Cambodian government decides to go after VOD and its reporters,” Robertson told VOA by email.

“Freedom of the press is still an endangered species in Hun Sen’s Cambodia. Diplomats should be telling the Cambodian government to respect media freedom and end the persecution of RFA, VOD, and other independent media,” Robertson added.

The CCIM’s Nop Vy said his organization attempted to prevent this from happening by building a “mutual understanding between the government and the independent journalists.

With a new team of five to seven people, including reporters and editors, Nop Vy said he hoped the website could play “the role as the watchdog in order to monitor the actions of the government” that had previously been performed by other outlets.

This, he said, would contribute to good governance and democracy in the country.

Nop Vy said he aimed to generate income for the Khmer website and activities of CCIM in general, to which VOD belongs.Shawn Crispin, Southeast Asia representative of the Committee to Protect Journalists, welcomed the creation of the English website.

“Cambodia’s press freedom situation has deteriorated significantly in recent years due to government harassment and threats,” he said in an email. “[Cambodian Prime Minister] Hun Sen’s government clearly sees free media as a threat to his consolidation of an unchallenged one-party state.”

‘Immoral’ articles

Government official Huy Vannak, who simultaneously serves as undersecretary of state at the Interior Ministry and head of the Union of Journalist Federations of Cambodia, denied the accusation. He said press freedom was “open and wide” and that journalists who complained about a lack thereof misunderstood the concept of freedom of expression.

“I think they want to use freedom for hate speech; they want to use freedom for incitement,” he said. Journalists who said they felt they could not report freely often wrote “immoral” articles, he said, by harming other people’s or government officials’ dignity — such as calling Cambodia’s government the “Hun Sen regime.”

“If they have good intentions, and if they practice professionalism, they can do whatever [they want to do],” he said. “But the point is people misunderstand how to exercise their freedom.”

‘Huge gap’ filled

Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch, echoed CPJ’s assessment. He said that while the new program “really fills a huge gap in reporting,” this was likely not a permanent solution. “Sadly, the big question is not if — but rather when — the Cambodian government decides to go after VOD and its reporters,” Robertson told VOA by email.

“Freedom of the press is still an endangered species in Hun Sen’s Cambodia. Diplomats should be telling the Cambodian government to respect media freedom and end the persecution of RFA, VOD, and other independent media,” Robertson added.

The CCIM’s Nop Vy said his organization attempted to prevent this from happening by building a “mutual understanding between the government and the independent journalists.

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