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New law urged to protect Cambodian female journalists

Women reporters complain of sexual harassment, online threats and being treated roughly by authorities

UCA News reporter, Phnom Penh

UCA News reporter, Phnom Penh

Updated: October 05, 2020 10:55 AM GMT
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New law urged to protect Cambodian female journalists

Women carry their children outside a hospital with a banner warning about the coronavirus in Phnom Penh on Sept. 29. Female journalists are complaining of harassment in Cambodia. (Photo: AFP)

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The Cambodian government has been urged by the Information Ministry, journalists and unions to pass an additional law to protect female reporters from harassment.

The call was made at a roundtable meeting titled “Challenges and Opportunities for Women in Journalism” hosted by the Cambodian Journalists Alliance (CamboJA) about solving problems faced by female journalists while working in the field.

Chea Sundaneth, undersecretary of state in the Information Ministry, said the harassment that female journalists were experiencing was not always reported.

“It happens when they cover serious events such as protesting. We have received news of a lot of harassment that has happened,” she said.

She said she wants to add a clause in the press law to protect female journalists from harassment while on duty, the Khmer Times reported.

Complaints included sexual harassment, online threats and being treated roughly by authorities while covering recent protests.

“Threats and violence from the authorities and getting harassed are the problems I have been facing. This concerns me working in the field as it makes me feel unsafe,” said Khan Leakhena, a reporter from Voice of Democracy.

She said such actions scared female journalists who do not feel safe when venturing into the field.

“The relevant ministry should work with the authorities on the issue. For example, when I went to cover one of the protests, I was removed by authorities even though I had already told them that I am a journalist,” Leakhena said.

Protests have been rare since a general crackdown on the independent media and opposition politicians from the Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) was launched ahead of elections in 2018.

Since then, protests have been rare and small but robust with police making many arrests. About 80 former members of the banned CNRP and their supporters are currently before the courts.

Nob Vy, executive director of CamboJA, told the event that the number of female journalists has been decreasing and some newsrooms had no women working in them at all.

He said parental attitudes and the public image of journalism could be partly responsible.

“We have seen that some parents are concerned about their daughters working in the field without understanding they are participating in important social work,” he said.

“Young people don’t have much interest in working in journalism and not every female student of journalism will become a journalist after graduation.”

CamboJA second deputy board director Kann Vicheika said dialogue would help female journalists to share their problems faced in the field and to seek solutions.

“As a journalist who has been working for over six years, I have been harassed in many ways, including verbally, sexually and online. I understand the feeling of facing these problems,” she said.

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