When journalists in Thailand gathered to form a code of conduct for themselves, Kavi Chongkittavorn, an editor for The Nation newspaper, proposed that reporters should not invite public officials to their wedding.
But with journalists raking in up to $5,000 an invitation for politicians, Kavi’s idea was rejected, he said Thursday at a forum in Phnom Penh on free press.
He used the anecdote to show how difficult, but necessary, it was for journalists to police themselves in order to improve accountability and professionalism.
“In Thailand, there are nine press associations and they are like nine tigers in the same cage,” Kavi said. “But the nine tigers know that if they stay together, the government will stay out of the cage.”
The need for journalists to take care of themselves was a reoccurring topic during the forum, which was organized by Khieu Kanharith, secretary of state at the Ministry of Information, and the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
In Cambodia, there are two press associations—the League of Cambodian Journalists and the Khmer Journalists Association—but they do not act as self-regulating bodies for all reporters.
Also, the government maintains a hand in the media by issuing licenses to the press, and having the power to suspend or shut down media outlets.
Wijayananda Jayawoorn, a regional adviser for communications for Unesco, said self-regulating mechanisms are needed here because the media in Cambodia is described as “vigorous but not professional.”
Om Yentieng, an adviser to Prime Minister Hun Sen, said Cambodian journalists need a higher salary as an incentive to improve their qualifications.
He added that Cambodia’s two press associations are very weak. “We have two tigers, but they are skinny,” he said