Cambodia's journalist associations have announced they will draw up their own
code of ethics by May in a bid to circumvent government efforts to do the job
for them. The six associations heard at a meeting, held at the Konrad Adenauer
Foundation in Phnom Penh January 24-25, that they would benefit from
"Establishing [a code of ethics] is very important,"
said Wayne Sharpe, chairman of the Institute for Media, Policy and Civil Society
(IMPACS). "It will encourage Cambodian journalists to self regulate; if they
don't, that will open the door for government to regulate
Sharpe said that a democratic and peaceful society required an
open media, but warned the media needed to play its part by reporting stories
"Cambodian media should not just be free, but should base its
stories on facts," said Sharpe. "Society cannot be free unless the media is
Pen Samitthy, president of the Club of Cambodian Journalists
(CCJ), said the six associations would ensure a draft code was drawn up by
March. That would allow it to be circulated among journalists for feedback and
ensure the final code was ready by World Press Freedom Day on May
Samitthy said that among the provisions would be a ban on journalists
taking money from officials and businessmen to write or avoid writing stories, a
common problem in Cambodia. The lack of independence of the country's papers
added to journalists' poor reputations.
"More Cambodian journalists have
lost confidence in their profession," he said, "but we have to try and convince
them to maintain a certain level of professionalism."
Samitthy said many
journalists working for Khmer-language newspapers were worried that holding to
professional standards precluded a reasonable standard of living.
Koeppinger, country representative of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, spoke of
the Cambodian media's problems in his speech at the opening of the country's
first media department at the Royal University of Phnom Penh January
He warned that the print media suffered from a lack of economic
independence and desperately needed a code of conduct. He said broadcast and
print media in Cambodia had some way to go before reaching the standards of some
of the country's neighbors.
"The standard of professionalism as well as
the ability to use modern technologies in order to [inform] the public is still
far lower than in some neighboring countries," he said.
journalism associations present were: the CCJ, the Cambodian Association for the
Protection of Journalists, the League of Cambodian Journalists, the Khmer
Journalists Association, the Group of Journalists for Liberty and Neutrality,
and the Independent Union of Journalists.