Journalist Pioneers in Phnom Penh

The guys’ apartment at 178th Street near the Royal Palace in the middle of Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh looks just like the bachelors apartment that it is. You will not find a lot of flowers and knick-knack in the 50 square metre living room. The pride and joy of the living room is the homemade ping-pong table.
  The residents of the apartment 22 year old Lasse Karner from Århus and 25 year old Markus Bernsen from Copenhagen sit down at the coffee table with an Anchor Beer in their hands and Marlboro cigarettes within an arms reach.
  “It is often said that it is good for a journalist to try and go to a completely new area and work there. Then you will have to find your own sources and basically start from scratch. If it can be very different going from Copenhagen to Silkeborg, the difference must be so much bigger going from Copenhagen to Cambodia, so that is one of the reasons that I wanted to go abroad for the first six months of my 18 months internship,” Markus Bernsen, reporter at the Phnom Penh Post, says.
  “I really cannot see, why I should not go abroad. I do think that one year’s internship in Denmark is enough to learn what I need to learn back home. I also learn a lot here. I am improving my written English, getting a lot of experience and try something different than Denmark. You cannot always use the internet here and it can be very hard getting to talk to the sources you want to speak to, so that is quite a challenge” reporter at Cambodia Daily, Lasse Karner, says.
  However, all is far from done when contact with the sources is established.
  “I have tried calling government officials and they have asked: What is it about? Then I explained for a few minutes and when they realize that the issue is a bit controversial, they say: Cannot talk now, I am in a meeting,” Markus Bernsen laughs.
  “Twice I have had a government official saying: I cannot hear you. It is raining.Then he turned off his phone. That can be pretty annoying if it happens to often, but on the other hand it is a bit funny. A thing like that would never happen in Denmark. It is just so grotesque,” Lasse Karner laughs shaking his head.
  In spite of being treated quite bad by the government officials the Danes are having a blast working in Phnom Penh.
  “I am really surprised how many important stories need to be written and the consequences the stories can have for the people who talks to journalists. On my third day here I wrote a story about the government wanting to build property on an island and ordering all people to leave. The military police was threatening people and still people wanted to be quoted in the paper, unaware of what consequences it can have for them,” Markus Bernsen says.
  “I guess people are willing to say almost everything on the record as they are not used to talking to the media. However I often find that the language barrier is in the way when I talk to people in the street. I often get answers like “I like it because it is good” as their English is often rather poor,” Lasse Karner says.
  Before coming to Cambodia the guys worried a bit if they were ever going to have any articles published working in a foreign country.
  “I chose Cambodia as I thought there was a lack of journalists making it easier to get to write stories, but on the other hand I did not dare to have high expectations. But we can write all the stories that we want and they will be published. There is a lack of journalists so every resource is needed. That is so great that we, as interns from Denmark, can come here and write important and exciting stories about all kinds of issues,” Markus Bernsen says.
  However, work is not all, but what do two Danes in Cambodia do in their spare time?
  “Drink Anchor, play ping-pong and go to the Biergarten for a BBQ,” the guys say simultaneously.
  Lasse Karner and Markus Bernsen go back to Denmark in January 2006 to do the rest of their internship.

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