A workshop to discuss the commercial sexual exploitation of children heard the media
should play a key role in combating the problem. Around 60 journalists at the August
28-29 workshop were told the media had the ability to decrease demand for child sex
by changing social attitudes that perceive women as sexual objects.
They could also use their power to pressure government and positively influence national
and international policy.
Mam Somaly, the president of End Child Prostitution, Abuse and Trafficking in Cambodia
(ECPAT), said the NGO network had organized the workshop to increase understanding
of the media's responsibilities to report accurately on child sexual exploitation
Somaly said ECPAT aimed to raise participants' awareness of the worldwide situation
and relevant domestic and international laws.
"There have been problems with reporting by local newspapers," Somaly said.
"Some reporting encourages people to come to Cambodia and have sex with young
She said major problems with the media's portrayal of the issues were the focus on
abused children rather than perpetrators of the crimes, and newspapers printing photos
of child victims.
"We hope participants will become more sensitive to respect child victims' privacy
and will double-check what they write," Somaly said. "We also want more
focus on abusers and on the laws against trafficking."
Janet Ashby, regional consultant at UNIAP, the UN's anti-trafficking agency, also
stressed the importance of reporters providing a deeper analysis of sexual exploitation
issues, rather than just printing sensationalist pictures. She said this included
focusing on those customers who were willing to have sex with children, and who had
"more power, money and social status than the people they exploit".
"If there were no customers willing to pay to have sex with a child, there would
be no traffickers of children for sex," Ashby said. "When I look at Cambodian
newspapers, I often see pictures of young girls who were sexually exploited, I sometimes
see pictures of accused traffickers [but] I rarely see pictures of customers."
Ashby said pictures or stories about officials or rich business people who were "frequent
customers" are "hardly ever printed" in the media.
Print, radio and television journalists attending the workshop were asked to use
their positions to help increase awareness of trafficking among parents and children
to slow down the "supply" of children for sexual exploitation.
ECPAT said this specifically included encouraging the government to ratify the UN
Trafficking Protocol and the International Labor Organization's Convention 182c Combating
the Worst Forms of Child Labor.