Kann Vicheika is a reporter at Voice of America (VOA) based in Phnom Penh. She writes stories related to politics, human rights, social justices, and social issues. Vicheika received the Indigenous Voices in Asia (IVA) Regional Award from Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact Foundation (AIPP) in 2015 for her video documentary “My land my life.” She was a citizen journalists’ mentor at the Voice for Democracy. She graduated in a major of law from the Royal University of Law and Economic. Currently, Vecheika is also a core member of Politikoffee, a group of young enthusiastic and social media-savvy Cambodians who love political, social and economics discussion and debate. As a core member, Vicheika facilitates and coordinates the forum, and promotes open discussion among youths on the social and political issues.
Q: Hello Vicheika! You seem so occupied these days.
Vicheika: I am so busy these days because there is a lack of people to work at my workplace, and I do daily report.
Q: What type of story do you report?
Vicheika: I write stories related to politics, social injustice, corruption, and women. Sometimes I write about health and economics.
Q: How long have you been working as a journalist?
Vicheika: I have been working in the media field for more than 5 years.
Q: How old are you?
Vicheika: I am 27.
Q: Why did you want to be a journalist?
Vicheika: I studied law as my undergrad because I witnessed the social issues, especially seeking justice for the poor. My family also experienced land grabbing. I asked myself what I can do to change the social unjust. So, I decided to study law. When I studied law, I understood that there are even more cases of social unjust. People least followed news in Cambodia. My parents often listened to Radio Free Asia and Voice of America. But, the TV channels in Cambodia didn’t report what Radio Free Asia and Voice of America said. So, I was interested in being a journalist to demand solutions of those issues. I don’t think I should wait until I graduated from law school. No one supported me to be a journalist, but I think I can help people directly. I started volunteering at VOD because it is a news outlet that is not influenced by the government. I worked as a journalist since then.
Q: You should have started to work in this field when you were about 21 or 22, right?
Q: Was it difficult for you when you started it?
Vicheika: I started volunteering. I did whatever people asked me to do without getting any pays. My family told me that being a journalist is dangerous, and other relatives blamed me for doing unpaid job. They asked me why I worked so hard for unpaid. My mental health got so many pressures along with work pressures. As you might have known that whenever we asked any information to the government’s officials, they were not happy. I started working as a journalist by learning because I didn’t know anything about journalism back then. It was so challenging for me. I almost gave up sometimes. I asked myself why I gave up while learning was always difficult.
Q: Besides you had to learn everything at the beginning of your career, were there any other challenges making you felt that you wanted to give up?
Vicheika: For me, only these things that impacted my decisions. At that time, I was studying. My parents supported me financially. When I got the money from my parents, I didn’t have a full agency to make a decision. So, it was the biggest challenge for me.
Secondly, that was so challenging in term of a working environment. I needed to learn journalism skills, but they didn’t have time to teach me. So, I worked so hard by myself. I won’t give up because of those things. I think nothing is more critical than you support yourself.
Q: Have you experienced any challenges when you work as a female journalist in Cambodia?
Vicheika: I mostly report about the inactiveness of the government or the negative consequences of the government’s works. That is not always appreciated by the government. Sometimes we criticized the government through our stories. Sometimes the pro-government journalists tried to isolate independent journalist as us. It is not a big challenge. We need to be smart and flexible.
Q: How to be smart and flexible?
Vicheika: When we went to report at some ministries, we were not welcomed. Sometimes I ignored it and need to be a thick skin person. These are helpful to minimize our fear and shyness. These would build the relationship between us and our surrounding. Sometimes when the security guards didn’t allow us to get into the events, we need to be flexible and soft. I ignored it because journalists from other news outlets were able to get in. I should be able to get in to. I was friendly to them and asked them why I can’t get in while other journalists can get in. These are what I have done, and it worked. I tried to get in unless they told me that I got zero chances to get into the events.
Q: Have your family asked you to quite your job?
Vicheika: My dad has often asked me to resign when I started working with VOD. I traveled to provinces to report news and to mentor Citizen Journalists. After I returned home about three days, my dad asked me to resign because I went to the province alone. I told him that I like my job and I am doing what I love. It is not dangerous. I know how to deal with going to the provinces alone.
He stopped asking me for a while. Then, my dad and my sister asked me to quit my job. My sister told me that other girls want to work in the bank. She asked me why I want to be a journalist working under the sun. It is essential that you know what you are doing.
Q: When your family and relatives asked you to quit your job, how did you convince them to continue working?
Vicheika: I told them that I love my job and I work from the bottom of my heart. What I am doing today is also for the society. I am flexible. I observed the situations if I have learned that it was dangerous. I have never shared about negativity and the danger of my job to my family. I told them that I get to know many people when I work as a journalist. I can get into many places that many people are not able to get in. I am proud to share the stories with people. When I told them again and again, the fear and danger went away from their head.
Q: What type of dangers are you talking about?
Vicheika: You might know that the journalists were killed and jailed. This is one of the biggest challenges. My family also saw it as a big challenge. I don’t share them about these issues. I told them only good things.
Q: Are you afraid of being a journalist?
Vicheika: I was afraid before the election. When I worked with VOD, I went to the field alone. It was not easy because I was a young girl. Sometimes I took a motor taxi at night in the middle of the juggle. I concerned about my safety because I wrote stories affecting some people, and I also worried about my surrounding. I didn’t know what would happen to me. I needed to consult with myself whether I was able to get into the place or not. Don’t force yourself to get into a position that you don’t feel safe. You need to find other ways to get the stories done.
Before the election in 2018, I was surprised sometimes when I drove on the roads. That was a sensitive period because the government wanted to close our office down. I drive a car, but I still concerned about my safety because I finish my work at night. Sometimes, when I stopped my car in front of the streetlight, and I saw a couple people stopped their motors nearby my car, I wanted to get away. We need to be careful all the time because we don’t know what would happen. I also concerned about the safety of my family because I don’t know if I am one of their targets. I don’t think I am a target since I am just a normal girl and write stories based on what I know. But, I concern that they will do something to me one day.
Q: What do you want from you work?
Vicheika: I want to improve the quality of my reports. Before I selected to write something, I think twice the important of the stories. The news outlets are essential to give voices to people. When people asked me to stop being a journalist, I wondered if I left this job who would do it. I always think about giving voices to people, especially vulnerable and marginalized people. That’s why I continue doing what I am doing nowadays.