Which Observers?

[Sent to the Cambodia Daily in April 2006. Not certain, but probably not published.]

The article by Whitney Kvasager on Wednesday (“Some Skeptical About Positive EU Assessment”) begins by stating that “[r]ights workers and observers” support the view of Yash Ghai over that of the European Parliament delegation regarding human rights in Cambodia.

However, the remainder of the article does not support that assertion.

It quotes only two people offering that opinion: Sok Sam Oeun, who believes that Yash Ghai has higher standards than the European Parliament, and Kek Galabru, who, as quoted, believes that Yash Ghai is less susceptible to jet lag.

These two are, presumably, the “rights workers” referred to in the article’s opening sentence. But where are the “observers” backing Yash Ghai?

The only other Cambodian quoted in the article is Cheam Yeap. Since he is a member of the National Assembly, not a rights worker, he presumably qualifies as an observer. However, he believes that the European Parliament delegation gave a more accurate view than Yash Ghai, so he contradicts Kvasager’s opening assertion rather than supporting it.

“Observer” is a broad term that might include everyone in Cambodia, so it is absurd to write as if there were unanimity among “observers”.

Even if Kvasager really meant “observers of the human rights situation,” that still doesn’t solve the problem, because many such observers agree with Cheam Yeap that the European Parliament delegation, jet lagged or not, got it more right than Yash Ghai, and Kvasager hasn’t told us of even one identifiable observer who believes the contrary.

I am not against journalists arguing a viewpoint. But writing “Observers say:” and then plugging in a political preconception is a travesty of journalism.

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