A Review of the Press in Viet Nam and Cambodia

Newspapers, magazines and other print media are struggling around the world as we transition more and more into a digital world where we receive all our news and information from online sources. Nevertheless, newspapers and magazines continue to published as they work to find niche markets and explore ways to survive in the new economy.

08_09_2013_001Viet Nam is a one-party state that is not known for having a robust and free press. The organization ‘Reporters without Borders’ publishes an annual list ranking 180 countries around the world on their freedom of the press. Last year, Viet Nam ranked 174th on this list (ouch!) and Cambodia ranked 144th. However, a number of quality newspapers are published here, and one of them is an English language daily Viet Nam News. I read Viet Nam News almost every day and often share stories from it with my students. I appreciate the layout. Typically it is about 30 pages long. It is 28 x 30 cm, a perfect size for reading on the table next to your breakfast and does not require any awkward unfolding. Except for the front page picture, the photos are in black and white and advertising is set to strict limits. The newspaper covers local and national business, environmental, cultural, and social news. Additionally, international news is extensively covered with many wire stories reprinted from Reuters, Agence-France Press, AP, and many others. Articles and opinions from readers and expatriates are encouraged and reprinted weekly.

Thanhniennews publishes their print edition in Vietnamese but has a online English language edition. They used to print a weekly newsmagazine in English called Viet Week which was excellent and covered a broad and interesting range of topics. Unfortunately, this was discontinued a few weeks ago due to financial costs associated with the printing. The people at Thanhniennews have an excellent editorial team and are not afraid to run hard-hitting pieces aimed at government and police corruption, and graft and malfeasance in the business sector. I am always impressed with the quality of their articles.

stock-footage-young-man-reading-newspaper-in-cafeThere are two slick glossy magazines printed here which are aimed at wealthy Western tourists and the expatriate community: Word  and Asia Life. They are mostly what you would expect from magazines in that genre- lots of articles covering restaurant openings with photoshopped pictures of food , reviews of nightclubs, bars, cafes, djs, bartenders, etc. and of course plenty of articles about beach towns and the hot new spots around Viet Nam. Occasionally, they will attempt an in-depth article, but the focus is on fluff, consumerism, and nightlife.

Cambodia has two surprisingly good newspapers based in Phnom Penh: The Cambodia Daily and The Phnom Penh Post. The former has a layout similar to Viet Nam News and is a compact, dense newspaper filled with articles from sources all over Asia and the world. With a minimalist style, including small black and white photos and small type-face, it might not appeal to younger generations who are used to splashy graphics, but I love it. I grab a handful of issues whenever I go to Cambodia. The PPP is similar though it looks a bit more like a traditional Western newspaper. Articles and editorials critical of the government are not widely seen, but as the country continues to open up and develop, I believe we will see press freedom expanding as well.

Online magazines, news sites and blogs are starting continually. Saigoneer is a website started recently by English speaking expats in Viet Nam and is aiming to cover a broad range of news topics. Lacking many writers, they mostly grab and repost articles from Thanhniennews and others. Khmer440 is site for expats in Cambodia to share their blogging material and occasionally has some interesting material, but regrettably the vast majority of their submissions are low quality gonzo garbage. Asiapundits, based in Korea also gathers materials from writers and bloggers based in Asia and , like Khmer440, has 10 throwaway pieces for every submission that is worth reading.









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