Increasing Safety for Female Journalists

A project to improve the safety of women journalists is slated to start this month after a study revealed an increasing number of women in the media experience violence
Journalists work at media center at Sokha Hotel Phnom Penh, August 5, 2022. Kiripost/Siv Channa
Journalists work at media center at Sokha Hotel Phnom Penh, August 5, 2022. Kiripost/Siv Channa

UNESCO and the Women’s Media Centre (WMC) are set to launch a project to improve the safety of women journalists and strengthen freedom of expression in Cambodia.

The project, which will launch on March 7, will host discussions to analyse and better understand the challenges that Cambodian women journalists face, including promoting legal assistance to enhance their safety.

According to a recent study conducted by UNESCO, globally, women journalists and media workers face increasing offline and online attacks and are subject to disproportional and specific threats.

A recent study conducted by UNESCO globally, which includes Cambodian reporters, concluded that 73 percent of women media workers experienced online violence.

It added that the gender-based violence they are exposed to include stigmatisation, sexist hate speech, trolling, physical assault, rape and even murder. This makes the need to combat the problem even more urgent.

The project, “Improving the Safety of Women Journalists to strengthen Freedom of Expression in Cambodia”, aims to enhance protection mechanisms, promote peer support networks, and improve the access of journalists to specialized legal assistance to promote their safety, UNESCO and WMC said in a statement.

Hang Samphors, Team leader of Cambodian Female Journalists (CFJ), said today there are some challenges that women journalists face, including online and offline sexual harassment, insults and threats. These challenges cause female journalists to change careers or their writing style, she said.

“All parties want to see more female journalists and they want to help but in reality, what they have written in the papers, we hardly ever see their actions,” Samphors told Kiripost.

She added that some of the threats affect female journalists’ mental health and make them not want to continue with the career.

“They have their own experience or sometimes they heard from other journalists, being women journalists who face challenges, they start to change and choose a new career. They love their career and they hope this job can help society but after they see these challenges, they don’t have intention anymore, so it makes them hope less to lead them through it,” Samphors said.

“The Cambodian justice system is still weak. We have many good laws but the implementation is not very effective,” she added.

Samphors said there should be more ways to prevent these challenges, such as political willingness. “I think it is very important, if leaders have enough political willingness to solve problems and challenges it will get better.”

In addition, all relevant authorities should be aware of the role of female journalists to enable them to fulfill their job as a journalist, Samphors said. Especially, there should be the independence of the judiciary and justice system, while promoting social morality as well, she said.

Samphors strives to inspire other female journalists not to give up as she said it contributes to the development of Cambodian society.

Journalism careers influence prosperous society, she said, adding that providing opportunities and support for women journalists is critical.