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Facebook journos ethics questioned

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Facebook reporters live streaming coverage of a traffic accident in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district on June 11. Hean Rangsey

Facebook journos ethics questioned

The Club of Cambodian Journalists (CCJ) will hold a forum on ethics of live streaming news on July 29 to educate Facebook live journalists about journalism’s code of ethics after reported incidents where some of these social media broadcasters may have acted unethically or engaged in abusive behaviour.

CCJ wrote in their letter of invitation to the event that live Facebook coverage is becoming a popular medium for online journalists, but some Facebook live broadcasters who hold press cards have not been adhering to their code of professional ethics as journalists.

“They’ve used inappropriate language, engaged in inappropriate behaviour and sometimes even severely abused others – all of which has been heavily criticised by the general public,” it said.

The letter said the purpose of the forum is to provide an opportunity for journalists – especially those broadcasting on Facebook – to gain more knowledge about professional ethics, including the use of appropriate language, attitudes and imagery during their live broadcasts.

The CCJ has invited Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith to chair the forum and Phos Sovann, the ministry’s Information and Broadcasting director-general, as a speaker.

CCJ president Pen Bona told The Post on July 27 that due to frequent ethical code violations by Facebook live journalists they were organising this forum to have a discussion and resolve this issue with the information ministry while harnessing the advice of other more experienced journalists, the CCJ and similar associations who can help to educate and correct them.

“Some people are basically just Facebook users, but somehow they hold a licensed press card. We have to discuss with the information ministry about that issue and the journalistic code of ethics,” he said.

Bona said that before the ministry grants licences to journalists, conditions should be set to ensure that they have knowledge of the profession and its ethics to some extent.

“We talked to the ministry a long time ago and suggested that we should set some conditions before issuing anyone a journalist license. If we want to run a licensed press organisation as a publisher or editor-in-chief, then we need to have knowledge about journalism and the media to some extent,” he said.

Bona said he supported setting such conditions but others did not because they believed it was too heavy of a restriction on freedom of speech.

“Hopefully in the near future we can discuss the issue and find a way to improve this situation for our journalists,” Bona said.

Sovann told The Post on July 27 that while it was true that some online journalists did not have much respect for journalistic ethics, they would be even more difficult to control if the ministry did not grant them a licence.

“Being less professional is still better than being totally unprofessional. If the Facebook streamers become licensed journalists, they might respect at least some of the code of ethics, even though it isn’t 100 per cent, like fully professional journalists,” he said.

He said the information minister had recently granted permission to his general department to set up a commitee to monitor the implementation of the rules concerning the code of journalistic ethics.

Sovann said the purpose of the commission would be to oversee enforcement of disciplinary actions for code violations and to assist in the transformation of the less-professional journalists into real professional journalists.

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