Sunday, July 19, 2009

Civil Officers Receive Spokesperson Training


26 Civil officers from ten different ministries and eight provinces over the nation have participated in spokesperson training over five days, from July 13 to 17, 2009 in Phnom Penh. The training was organized by the Ministry of Information and sponsored by the Embassy of the United States of America in Cambodia.

Participating authorities included the Ministry of Rural Development, Ministry of Commerce, Ministry of Tourism, Ministry of Land Management Urban Planning and Construction, Ministry of Mines and Energy, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Ministry of the Economy and Finance, and the Ministry of Education Youth and Sport. There were also delegates from the Council of Ministers and representatives from eight provinces including Banteay Meanchey, Battambang, Pailin, Kampong Cham, Rattanakiri, Siem Reap, Preah Sihanouk and Mondulkiri.

Khieu Kanharith, Minister of Information, said it marked the second time that the government has organized such courses. They will strengthen the ability of authorized individuals to describe government policy and achievements, their comments intended for broadcast by the various news and current affairs media.

“These meetings mark the first stage of the training process. They aim to train government officers about the role of the spokesperson. Having completed the training, candidates will be able to communicate with the media and members of the public. They will be able to speak about government policy, their ministries, or about subjects relevant to the country’s cities and provinces,” he said during his opening remarks on July 13.

The Minister pointed out that last month, 22 police officers, military police and ranking military officers received spokesperson training. The next step, he said, will involve training candidates to serve as Public Relations Officers with ministries, institutions, cities and provinces.

So far, the Cambodian media has been playing an important role, cooperating and working hard with the Royal Government of Cambodia in promoting and therefore increasing the effectiveness of government policy, democracy and the rule of law, said Kanharith.

United States Ambassador to Cambodia, Carol A. Rodley, said that official spokespeople would serve as vital links between the Government and the Cambodian people and between the government and the rest of the world.

Rodley said that any government’s relationship with the media is sometimes strained and this is as true for the U.S.A. as it is for Cambodia and is a hallmark of communication for all nations that respect free speech.

“The reality is that public officials, private companies and the media need each other and that their relationship is mutually beneficial. The government needs the media to communicate with its people and the media needs the government to “feed the machines”- to provide information which keeps the papers and television stations running. This information exchange allows both bodies-the government and the media-to fulfill their primary duty which is to serve and to inform the people,” she said.

The American Ambassador continued to say that the fact the relationship is at times difficult is actually a positive quality, and represents the natural tension that exists between the media, tasked with translating and explaining government policies to the people, and the government whose tendency is to protect and preserve its status.

“I have no doubt that all of you are up to the task. Nevertheless, I stress the phrase working with the media, because to me that implies engaging with your counterparts in the press. Engaging with them will ensure that the government’s policies and priorities are clearly represented to the people. Being “in front” of the story or quickly providing accurate and concise information in response to a request or a crisis will allow you to dispel rumors, stamp out disinformation and inform your public,” she said.

She continued, “The Cambodian people, independently and through the media will at times both criticize and praise the work of your ministries, and they are entitled to their opinion. It will be your role to respond to them by providing the information they need to form a well balanced and accurate opinion, and not one based on rumors or hearsay.”

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