Female Journalists Say Harassment Part of Job

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.


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