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Journalists heap scorn on their own ranks at meeting

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081223_03.jpg

The first congress of the Press Council of Cambodia addresses abuses of the press as delegates call for new code of ethics

Photo by:

Tracey Shelton

Participants at the first congress of the Press Council of Cambodia in Phnom Penh on Monday.

CAMBODIAN journalists decried reporters who abused their positions to extort others and called for a professional code of ethics on Monday at the first congress of the Press Council of Cambodia.

"There have been a lot of journalists who were arrested because they tried to extort loggers, businessmen and politicians. All the journalists wanted was money," said Theang Phalla, director of the Cambodian Journalist Council Organisation.

Rights organisation Licadho has reported that this type of extortion can be quite lucrative, with bribes of up to US$1,000 for not publishing a negative story.

"In 2008, there was a whole stable of cases where journalists were brought to court," said Nouv Sovathero, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Information.

But he appealed to audience members not to betray their morals.

"It is true that people need to earn a living, but this shouldn't make them forget about their professional ethics. You must think that you are

working as a representative of all journalists," he said.

Too many journalists in Cambodia do not think about their central role in Cambodian society, and this can result in abuses, Than Vutha, with the Cambodia National Journalist Association for Peace, told the congress.

"As a professional journalist, you have an obligation to think about the effects of your work before it's published," he said.

Many journalists at the event advocated for more training as a way to raise awareness about the importance of ethics while also improving skills.

"Because most journalists never have time to train or attend workshops, they lack many journalistic skills and knowledge of ethics. How can you expect them to work professionally? It is up to the editor-in-chief to give them chances to learn," said Oum Chandara of the Khmer Journalist Association.

Oum Chandara also pushed for a formal code of ethics.

 "Journalists need to be responsible. They must write a story with a code of ethics in mind," he said.

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