Center to Increase Women Journalists’ Safety and Access to Legal Aid to Launch

A project that aims to improve female journalists’ safety and access to legal aid in the form of a Women's Media Center is slated to start this month
At the project’s opening ceremony promote safety for female journalists. Kiripost/Siv Channa
At the project’s opening ceremony promote safety for female journalists. Kiripost/Siv Channa

The Women’s Media Center (WMC) will start this month after receiving funding from the British government via UNESCO for one year to improve and promote safety for female journalists in the country. 

At the project’s opening ceremony on Tuesday, WMC’s Executive Director, Oung Chanthol said the project will run in two locations in Phnom Penh and Kandal province. She added that it will last for one year, starting with 40 members. 

Activities the project will focus on include establishing a female journalist network, providing legal assistance and advice, psychological counseling services, dialogue between police and female journalists, and training to police officers, among others.  

The program aims to empower female journalists to continue to provide accurate and trustworthy information to their commune, and ways to protect themselves via access to rapid legal aid and psychological assistance. 

The WMC director hopes threats against women journalists are reduced and police understanding of the importance of journalists, especially women journalists, increases. 

Chanthol had a discussion with 60 women journalists in July 2022 and saw there are a lot of challenges that women journalists face, and they demand protection. She added that women journalists need more training to strengthen their capacities in the digital age. 

“The project that we did with UNESCO was necessary. Since I have been a director of WMC for more than three years, when I came there I asked them if we have a women journalists’ association. I heard we have plans but it cannot happen because we don’t have money. So I decided to find a grant to build a women journalist association. We need to help each other work together to change,” Chanthol said. 

She noted that women have met problems since they became journalists, including families. She added discrimination both online and offline continue, leading to less women represented in the industry.

“Women journalists are assigned to write small stories, not about international affairs, analysis, economics, and politics. We hardly ever have women as editors-in-chief,” she said.

Aguirre Idiaquez Mikel, UNESCO head of communication and information, said that it is an important project to provide and support women journalists’ needs after they face challenges, more likely to happen to them comparing to male reporters, including things like comments from people of how they look, how they dress and that they should smile more. 

A total of 73 percent of women journalists, including women reporters in Cambodia, experience online violence. 

Mikel said the project will try to address these issues and therefore the country needs to have a proper mechanism to address safety for women journalists. He added that women journalists should report both physical and verbal abuse without fear.

Marc Thaye, Deputy Ambassador at the British Embassy, said that according to the Ministry of Information in 2021, around 470 women journalists out of 5,000 were attacked online and offline.