The Youth Voices Matter! project has ended after two years of raising knowledge and understanding of independent media among young Cambodians, providing access to various media forms and programs, and generating online and offline media material to better engage in public discourse.
The project is funded by the European Union and was implemented in Battambang, Kampong Thom, Siem Reap, and Phnom Penh from January 2020 to December 2022.
Cambodian Center for Independent Media (CCIM), Women’s Media Center (WMC), and DW Akademie closed the project in a ceremony on Friday at the Hyatt Hotel in Phnom Penh.
The project goal was to assist and improve the role of civil society in promoting shared objectives for human rights and democratic processes, as well as to increase political involvement and representation. It was designed to be consistent with the framework for EU youth policy cooperation, which aims to engage, connect, and empower young people.
Tihamér CZIKA, Deputy Head of the EU Delegation to Cambodia, spoke at the event's conclusion that Youth Voices Matter also had a dedicated focus on gender equality, and has helped young Cambodian men and women to better understand the media and use it to add their voices to the national discourse.
For the project's implementers, Youth Voices Matter! promoted this understanding of the media means first and foremost boosting awareness about the importance and usefulness of trustworthy information – and how to obtain it. It is one of the Media and Information Literacy (MIL) concepts and the foundation for all education.
The project launched a nationwide online education program, focusing on major media concerns such as verification fundamentals and digital security. The second phase was to establish large-group public exchange forums throughout the provinces using project-trained facilitators and media experts.
This enabled participating youth to delve deeper into how to find and access reliable information and then use that knowledge to engage in a dialogue with local opinion leaders, voicing their own unique perspectives and ideas.
Youth Voices Matter! collaborated with Paññasastra University of Cambodia (PUC) Faculty of Communication and Media Arts to build autonomous youth media in Cambodia and extend the range of themes available.
A campus media completed four phases under the supervision of CCIM media trainers, and 82 PUC students – mostly women – were trained and mentored in generating their own material for social media platforms, such as TikTok, and sharing their opinions on current events through the eyes of young academics added a new dimension to Cambodia's independent media sector.
The implementation of “Youth Voices Matter!” coincided with the global Covid-19 pandemic, forcing the project team to adapt to changing realities and adjust its approaches. Previously inconceivable online and hybrid activities replaced large in-person group gatherings, as those were deemed too risky and at times also prohibited through health regulations.
“Despite the pandemic, the project has clearly achieved what it set out to do: to empower youth, particularly young women, to visibly participate in society through the use of media,” said Andreas Grigo, Head of Project at DW Akademie.
Youth Voices Matter! focuses on supporting young Cambodians to fully enjoy their human right to freedom of expression through the use of independent media, online and offline.
Activities evolved around strengthening the principles of Access to Information (AtI) and Freedom of Expression (FoE) through three core aspects of media and information literacy (MIL): awareness, access, and action. Its target group are rural and urban Cambodian youth, with a dedicated gender focus.
According to the statement, the first part of the project resulted in the development and implementation of a youth education campaign on FoE and AtI. Ten Information Units (IUs) were created for the online campaign, with two of them focusing specifically on young women.
The online campaign reached 3,2 million views and 200.000 interactions, and 220 youth participated in public youth exchange forums, with an additional 400 youth substituting online activities during the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The second part of the project resulted in new youth media programs being created and broadcast. Two User Labs were organized to study young media preferences and behavior, as well as two program plans for campus media publishing and a national youth program.
A total of 76 university students trained in media production and program planning, and 82 youth-relevant stories produced and published by students.
The third part of the project resulted from rural young reporters being trained and youth reports being broadcast. A total of 22 media professionals and journalists were trained as trainers for mobile and youth reporting, 91 rural youth were recruited, trained, and accompanied in mobile reporting, 45 stories were created by youth reporters and published by WMC's media channels.
In addition, six rural media camps were held in target regions, 113 rural youth participated in the bar camps, with 50 percent of participants being female, and youth media contributed to results two and three reaching an audience of over 120,000.
Saut Sokheng, editor of CCIM, said, “When active youth engagement in media is essential, young people must be taught and enlightened about fundamental activity that has a beneficial societal impact. Quality education for youth is crucial knowledge in the twenty-first century, through social networking, the young have gotten enough facts, news, or information to grow themselves and society. On the other hand, if people seek fake news, they demonstrate their community.”
“Young voices are vital in citing difficulties in their own communities, and there is a chance to employ professional journalist mentoring for them to weigh, connect, and involve. Young people should study and take advantage of chances to educate themselves, such as Voice Youth Matter.
The Khmer Youth Association representative said that young people are victims of fake news, bullying, and online persecution because they lack key social media information, such as analyzing fake news and sharing without a reliable source.
“The news may have an impact on our lives; for example, social bullying words should be prohibited on physical and social media, as it can lead to young suicide. As a result, KYA attempted to apply all resources to have a good impact on it,” said the KYA representative.
“Only young people can understand the feelings of the same youth. So, the majority of people who share and create content on social media are young people who want to see a better society.”