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From Lowell Start, D.C. News Anchor Reports at Radio Free Asia

November 18, 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Nareth Muong guesses he’s filed hundreds of stories since he began working for Radio Free Asia two years ago.

The Cambodian-born reporter covers stories about human rights, democracy, and politics back home. He’s interviewed politicians and activists and his work is widespread, reaching audiences in the Southeast Asian nation and Asia, as well as Cambodians here in the U.S. and elsewhere around the globe.

According to its website, Radio Free Asia is a non-profit corporation that strives to provide accurate and timely news to Asian countries whose government prohibit access to a free press. Last year, Radio Free Asia announced it closed its nearly 20-year-old bureau in Cambodia’s Phnom Penh amid a “relentless crackdown by Prime Minister Hun Sen’s authoritarian regime on independent media.”

“You can feel the frustration that Cambodia is believed in the eyes of the international world to be one of a Democratic country, but in reality people do not really enjoy that,” Muong, 42, said in a phone interview. “The reason that I’m inspired to engage in this, to be a reporter, is to just be a chip, be a part of the process bringing real democracy to Cambodia and to make sure that people feel like they’re not left behind.”

Muong, who lives in Arlington, Virginia, and works in Washington, D.C., has come a long way from Lowell, where he used to co-host the CMAA TV Show through Lowell Telecommunications Corporation, the city’s non-profit media center. CMAA stands for the Cambodian Mutual Assistance Association.

“LTC gave the Cambodian community the venue for accessing some information that was lacking in the community,” said Muong, adding that he loved his time at LTC. “There’s not much information in Khmer and normally information is tainted through politics. We focused more on real pieces of information, including health care, what people should do to exercise their right to vote, how to vote.”

Caroline Gallagher, programming coordinator and LTC news director, said Muong’s job at Radio Free Asia is a really big deal.

“I think it’s great that he has made the move and I always thought he was a good presence on TV,” Gallagher said. “A lot of people use their local community media station as a training ground to move onto something bigger and better. I don’t know if that’s intentional with him or not, but that’s what he did.”

Visal Chin, a host and co-producer on the CMAA TV Show, said Muong is well known in the city’s Cambodian community. Both men were two of three co-hosts at one point, with their own separate segments.

“We worked closely, friendly together. If we don’t work together, we cannot host the TV (program) together. There were no fights,” Chin, of Lowell, joked. “He’s very good.”

Though the Cambodian civil war has ended, Muong said his fellow Cambodians don’t yet fully enjoy the freedom of human rights and democracy that they deserve because of current political trouble.

“What my colleagues and I dream of doing is to make sure that the voice of the voiceless is heard,” he said. “That’s the most important mission that we are doing, and that I’m doing.”

Follow Amaris Castillo on Twitter @AmarisCastillo.

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