UNESCO and the Women’s Media Centre are promoting media freedom through the project “Strengthening Media Development and Freedom of Expression in Cambodia”, having seen women journalists and media workers face increasing offline and online attacks that make them subject to disproportional, and often specific, threats.

The one-year project was funded by the UK embassy and was launched on March 7 at an event in Phnom Penh, attended by around 50 people, most of them journalists and people working in the media industry.

Mikel Aguirre Idiaquez, head of communications and media for UNESCO Cambodia, said that globally, women journalists and media workers face increasing offline and online attacks. He added that a recent study conducted by UNESCO, which included Cambodian reporters, concluded that 73 per cent of women media workers experienced online threats or harassment.

The gender-based intimidation they are exposed to implies stigmatisation, sexist hate speech, trolling, threats of physical assault, rape and even murder. This makes the need to combat the problem even more urgent.

“UNESCO works closely with partners to advocate the safety of women journalists. With the support of the Global Media Defence Fund [GMDF], Women’s Media Centre is implementing the project to enhance protection mechanisms, promote peer support networks, and improve the access of journalists to specialised legal assistance to promote their safety,” he said.

Ung Chanthol, executive director of the Women’s Media Centre, said that the project will be implemented for one year in the first step to form networks of women journalists.

She added that having mobilised the women to participate in the project, it will provide support and create a forum for women journalists to be able to discuss and raise challenges or suggest solutions.

“We can do this project in the long term to help women journalists. Commencing on the project, we established a network of 40 women journalists. So, we have to convene a monthly meeting so that they can visit and can help with ideas and opinions in dividing resources or information with each other. The project will also provide training for them when their group wants to learn something more. We will make preparations for them,” she stated.

Chhorn Reaksmey of Kiripost Media said that as a new woman journalist, she understood that support and protection for women journalists are good as this career tends to last for a short time.

“When faced with a problem, I try to deal with it and control my emotions. I wish there were laws in our country to protect women journalists, because when a woman encounters a situation, it always hurts her emotionally, and I do not know who to consult with or share this fear with, because it feels shameful and I feel I must hide it,” she said.

Hang Samphors, head of Cambodian Female Journalists (CFJ), said that the project will provide women journalists with support to address the issues they face, physically, mentally and legally.

“I expect that relevant stakeholders, especially the competent institutions, will participate and cooperate to make it easier for women journalists and provide them with information as needed, because journalists need the necessary cooperation from the authorities. Without this cooperation, we women aren’t able to disseminate information,” she said.