The Ministry of Women’s Affairs is urging the media to “bear ethical responsibility” in reporting on news about violence against women, days after a TV host apologized for making what he later said was a joke about a teenager’s rape and murder.
In a statement released on Thursday, the ministry said comments made by Meas Rithy, deputy director of Hang Meas TV, were contrary to an established code of conduct concerning such issues, but he had “acknowledged his mistake and made a public apology on air.”
Mr. Rithy talked about the rape of 18-year-old Sovan Somalin on his “Morning News Show” on August 10, then followed the segment with a comment that a rapist should leave his victim alive to “keep her for using again.”
The comments outraged many in Phnom Penh and activists quickly began on online petition seeking an apology from Mr. Rithy, who did so on Monday and again on Thursday, though he also said: “They demanded more and more. What do they really want?”
Sovan Somalin disappeared on August 2 while taking a shared taxi to Bavet City, where she worked at a casino, after visiting her family in Preah Vihear province, her family said this week. Her body was found in a rice field, face down and tied to a rock. Two men were arrested in the case six days later.
The ministry’s Thursday statement said it strongly hoped that “Mr. Meas Rithy as well as other commentators will respect media ethics and professional responsibility in order to take part in promoting women’s values and social ethics.”
Yen Sarath, director of the department of information at the ministry, said Mr. Rithy acknowledged his professional responsibility “and we acknowledge his knowledgement.”
In the letter emailed to The Cambodia Daily on Friday the ministry asked all media owners, media editors and journalists to adhere to the media conduct code for reporting on violence against women that was developed by the ministries of Information and Women’s Affairs.
“Media bear an ethical responsibility to help to stop violence against women and they can be indeed good allies for this cause,” the letter states.
Roeun Srey Lot, Sovan Somalin’s mother, said on Friday that the family was dismayed that it had received no apology for the hurtful remarks.
“I want him to apologize straight to me,” Ms. Srey Lot said. “I am still considering.”