Young female Cambodian reporters interviewed last week said they regularly encounter harassment, sexual discrimination and threats of physical violence on the job, especially when reporting on corruption.
Recently, Phorn Vinita, who works for the biweekly Samney Thmey newspaper, said she received threatening phone calls from high-ranking officials whom she had interviewed for articles about corruption and land-grabbing in Kompong Cham province.
“One official asked me if, since I am female and work in the media, am I scared of being raped,” said Phorn Vinita, 24, who has worked in journalism for more than three years. “And other officials have said that I should be careful when I write articles; otherwise, I will be stabbed in the head. That, I call intimidation,” she said.
Sources are more likely to avoid questions from women or stall when answering, said Vay Vattey, 22, a reporter for Kampuchea Thmey news. Officials often used abusive words toward her, she added, but did not elaborate.
In May, Um Sarin, president of the Cambodian Association for the Protection of Journalists, said Cambodian reporters are often harassed, threatened, and even physically attacked, with no one held accountable. But some suggest female journalists may be targeted more frequently than their male counterparts.
Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith, secretary of state for the Ministry of Information, said officials do sometimes harass and intimidate female reporters because of their sex, though he said he shuns the practice. He said women sometimes make better journalists than men.
“Female reporters are more effective than males because they are clever in questioning sources for information,” he said.
Women journalists, like women in other sectors, may encounter discrimination in a bid to prove their abilities, said Chea Vannath, president of the Social Development Center. “They are the first to clear the forest, so they are scratched by the thorns,” she said.
“Fifty-two percent of the Cambodian population is female, so women should be represented in all sectors, especially in the media, because the media plays a vital role in revealing what is happening in society,” Chea Vannath said.
As a female journalist, Phorn Vinita said she hopes she can shed more light on issues important to Cambodian women.
Many of her male colleagues focus their coverage on politics, she said, sometimes missing issues such as domestic violence or sex trafficking.
“I will work for my country despite being threatened by some government officials,” she said.