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PM calls for journalistic ethics free of interference

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The Club of Cambodian Journalists (CCJ) organised the 19th Editor’s Forum on strengthening the practice of journalistic ethics in Cambodia on December 17. CCJ

PM calls for journalistic ethics free of interference

Prime Minister Hun Sen offered suggestions for the 19th Editor’s Forum to use as basis to uphold the values and dignity of media outlets, noting that a handful of journalists are breaching the ethical and professional code expected of the profession.

Hun Sen provided his recommendations in a letter addressing the forum, held in Phnom Penh on December 17. A total of 92 publishers, editors-in-chief, association representatives and media leaders from 60 media outlets convened at the forum to discuss strengthening the ethics of journalists.

“There are still a small number of journalists working in breach of the ethical and professional code as they think only of their own interests,” he said, noting that they did so under the guise of providing information.

The letter said some journalists had spread fake news which was polluting society, insulting people and inciting hostilities. Fake news, it added, had created conflict, divided solidarity and caused instability, insecurity and disorder in society.

It further said that fake news had even affected the value and prestige of the career and made members of the public lose trust in journalists and the media as a whole.

Hun Sen recommended that the Editor’s Forum discuss and prepare directions and strengthen mechanisms for implementing the professional ethics code of journalists and oppose opportunists operating under the guise of providing information. He also suggested that professional journalists receive training in the use of digital media technology so that they can keep up with the developments of the modern era.

He asked that editors-in-chief combat fake news and prevent its spread which could “poison” society and plunge the country into chaos.

The premier also recommended that they continue disseminating preventive health measures to curb the spread of Covid-19 and help encourage people to get vaccinated, and that they provide ample coverage of the 32nd Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Cambodia in 2023, including in the months leading up to the biennial multi-sports event.

“We want to tell everyone about the journey towards the 32nd SEA Games 2023, which will be hosted by Cambodia, so that this event will be known far and wide and draw large crowds,” he said.

At the forum, 60 media outlets urged the establishment of a professional journalist ethics council to punish those who abuse the profession.

Currently, journalists’ clubs and associations do not have the legal right to censure journalists who violate an ethical code aside from expelling them if they are members.

In a joint statement, they said that strengthening the professional ethics of journalists are important in upholding the values of journalists and bolstering public trust in the media, especially in the context of the boom in online journalism and social media.

“We as editors-in-chief in Cambodia understand that clubs or associations of journalists today do not have the power to orient journalists towards professional ethics because they have no legal right to issue warnings or discipline those who commit wrongdoing,” it said.

The statement said that no institution currently acts to orient or uphold the values of the journalism profession, which has resulted in members of the public sometimes criticising all journalists for the professional misconduct of a relatively small number of people.

“We believe that the establishment of a professional journalistic ethics council, with the clear function of improving the sector and punishing wrongdoers, is essential for improving the current state of journalism in Cambodia,” it read.

The group also appealed to all members of journalist associations to join the proposed “Press Ethics Council” and support its processes. They emphasised the importance of enhancing the quality and abilities of all journalists, so they will earn respect and be valued by members of the public and authorities as reliable sources of information.

Puy Kea, the newly-minted president of the Club of Cambodian Journalists (CCJ), said at the forum that at present, three countries – Thailand, Indonesia and Myanmar – have established independent press councils to regulate their media industries, without requiring government regulation or penalties such as criminal charges or the revocation of journalist licences.

“This means that when journalists have any problems, the press council plays a vital role in explaining things to them so that they can make corrections and orient them. So, the main purpose of establishing the press council is industry regulation,” he elaborated.

He continued that ethics are a growing problem among journalists as the industry has expanded and become less centralised, but they have had some success with ethics training programmes for inexperienced journalists.

“A small number of our journalists are not aware of the ethics of journalism, so they overstep the appropriate boundaries of their roles,” he said.


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