Journalism can help Cambodia find true democracy, says Master of Journalism student

Nov Povleakhena was born in Cambodia as the country was embracing the 1991 Paris Peace Accords, following decades of civil war and Cold War manoeuvring that left a trail of misery and destruction. Now a Master of Journalism student at the JMSC, she hopes her training here can help in Cambodia’s rebirth.

‘As part of a post-civil war generation, I think one of my responsibilities as a citizen is to help build this nation again,’ Nov said. ‘I believe that the media can help people to make well-informed decisions, and is an important element in democracies.’

‘This is the reason why I have chosen journalism,’ she added. ‘With my profession, I want to use the media to help Cambodia find true democracy.’

Nov and two other Cambodian colleagues who also interned with Rappler

Nov and two other Cambodian colleagues who also interned with Rappler

Nov graduated from the Royal University of Phnom Penh in 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in media management, and completed an internship at social news network Rappler, in the Philippines, during her third year of studies.

She spent 18 months in the Voice of America Khmer service as a reporter and also helped with VOA Khmer’s digital news coordination, including on its social media channels. It was then that she began to develop a deeper understanding of the way in which Cambodians use social media, and the influence it could have.

‘Social media is a free channel that offers an alternative to mainstream media organisations—which tend to practise self-censorship out of fear of losing their licences,’ said Nov.

‘It’s very frustrating. Many people in Cambodia lack news literacy and share fake stories without verification. I want to teach them how to verify the news and be more critical in the news they consume.’

Nov covered the issue of climate change with the VOA Khmer team

Nov covered the issues of deforestation and climate change with the VOA Khmer team

Nov said that the digital journalism course she is taking at the JMSC is also helping her to explore the possibilities of technology and learn how to be a better storyteller. ‘You have the basic journalism skills, but technology helps you tell stories in a better, more interactive way,’ she said.

Hong Kong itself is proving to be a solid learning environment for Nov as well, who chose the city as a place to study with the goal of gaining more life experience. ‘The pace of life in Hong Kong is much faster than in Cambodia, but there are a lot of opportunities, in everything, not just the media,’ she said.

Nov said that with many international companies having their main offices or regional headquarters in Hong Kong, there is always potential to meet and network with people from around the world. She also likes the big events and expos that the city hosts, and sees Hong Kong’s political system as a model that Cambodia could look to:

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Nov chose to study in Hong Kong in order to gain more life experience

‘I want to learn from Hong Kong’s “One country, two systems” model, which is known for its rule of law. With the same Asian context and Western approach, Hong Kong is a perfect match for me to relate to in terms of practising the principles of good journalism.’

The application period to join the Master of Journalism programme for the 2017‒18 academic year is now open. To learn more, click here.

Follow Nov on Twitter here.