WORLD PRESS FREEDOM DAY 2012: Promoting Responsible Journalism in Cambodia

@Ramon Sanchez - Newspaper Stand in Cambodia

About World Press Freedom Day

Every year, 3 May is a day to celebrate the fundamental principles of press freedom, evaluate press freedom around the world, defend the media from attacks on their independence, and pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the exercise of their profession. 3 May was proclaimed World Press Freedom Day by the UN General Assembly in 1993 following a Recommendation adopted at the twenty-sixth session of UNESCO's General Conference in 1991. It serves as an occasion to inform citizens of violations of press freedom—a reminder that in countries around the world, publications are censored, fined, suspended and closed down, while journalists, editors and publishers are harassed, attacked, detained and even murdered. It is a day to encourage and develop initiatives in favor of press freedom, and to assess the state of press freedom worldwide.

Above all, the day serves as a reminder to governments of the need to respect their commitment to press freedom and offers an opportunity for media professionals to reflect on issues of press freedom, responsible journalism and ethical standards in reporting.

World Press Freedom Day 2012 in Cambodia

In Cambodia, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), in cooperation with the Cambodia Communication Institute, Department of Media and Communications of Royal University of Phnom Penh, Cambodian Journalists’ Council for Ethics, Press Council of Cambodia, Cambodia Center for Independent Media, Club of Cambodian Journalists and the Cambodian Association for Protection of Journalists, will celebrate World Press Freedom Day 2012, focusing on issues of responsible journalism and code of ethics. A half-day event under the theme of Promoting Responsible Journalism in Cambodia will be held on 3 May 2012, from 8 a.m. to noon at the Imperial Garden Villa and Hotel in Phnom Penh.  The celebration aims to provide a forum for dialogue among media representatives, practitioners, and civil society organizations to discuss the current challenges and issues surrounding ethical practices in the Cambodia media sector. Two rounds of debate will take place in order to give platform for the working journalists and media professionals to voice their ideas and concerns.

The foremost task of the journalist is to serve the people’s right to accurate, factual and true information through an honest dedication to fair, unbiased and objective reporting. The social role of a journalist demands that the profession maintains high standards of integrity and professionalism, respects the right of an individual to privacy and human dignity, and does not permit reporters to accept any form of bribe. Journalists must be aware of all forms of discrimination that can be perpetuated by the media, and avoid promoting such discrimination based on race, sex, sexual orientation, religion, and ethnic, linguistic or social origins.

Around the world and in Cambodia, press freedom is not always balanced with the responsibility to report accurately, fairly and independently. Some news are published or broadcasted without factual basis or credible sources. For instance, the print, broadcast and internet media often feature dehumanizing and violent images or videos. Sensationalized stories are presented with potential risks and damage to the dignity and security of an individual.

In order to promote press freedom with a human rights perspective, the safety of journalists and the right of media users, media organizations and associations must strictly follow ethical standards and sound editorial guidelines. These codes must be actively disseminated to journalists and regularly debated and reviewed. There is an important need to encourage the establishment of independent standard-setting bodies in the country.  

During the event, it is hoped that journalists, media professionals, and civil society organizations will debate the challenges and issues in codifying and adhering to ethical practices in the Cambodian context.

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