A leading Cambodian rights activist today urged journalists to be more meticulous in their reporting on social and human rights issues in the Kingdom.
Thun Saray, president of the local rights group ADHOC, told a round table meeting hosted by the Club of Cambodian Journalists that decisions on what to report on should not be made on the basis of political considerations or fear of censure.
“Newspapers, radio and television dare not broadcast or take photos of demonstrations or strikes by garment workers, but instead broadcast or publish Buddhist ceremonies held by the rich and powerful,” he said, adding that this was a form of political discrimination.
“We must write both the negative and the positive,” he said.
Thun Saray said that some journalists who write stories critical of the government or stories that might be considered sensitive are in turn threatened by wealthy or powerful people, which he characterised as a violation of human rights and a betrayal of the freedom of the press.
Pen Samithy, president of the CCJ and editor of the Khmer language daily newspaper Rasmey Kampuchea, said that reporting on human rights issues involves a balance of “the problem of law, virtue and professionalism” in coverage, as well as avoiding any repercussions.
Thach Phen, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Information, said that journalists who report false information can rightly face legal repercussions.
“Journalists have a right to write and speak the truth, but they should not impact on anyone else’s rights,” he said.
He added that if journalists work professionally, they should have no fear of facing disinformation or defamation complaints.
In its latest Press Freedom Index compiled between September 2009 and September 2010, Reporters Without Borders ranked Cambodia at 128, down from 117 the previous year.