A prominent morning television news host has promised an apology today following public outrage over his recent on-air remarks that a rapist and murderer should have kept his victim alive to “keep her for using again.”
During his morning news show on Thursday, Meas Rithy, Hang Meas TV’s deputy director-general, discussed the rape and murder of a woman in Svay Rieng province.
“If you already raped her, why not keep her for using again?” Mr. Rithy asked, telling rapists not to kill their victims.
He went on to address women at large, telling them to “sweet-talk your rapist” if already cornered and not be so confident when going out alone at night.
“You should not travel by taxi by your own,” his female co-host Ros Sotheavy added. “That will be dangerous for us. And so we should get the bus.”
Mr. Rithy is well-known in Cambodia for his popular “Morning News Show” and has more than 500,000 likes on Facebook. He claims viewers of his show, which started in 2013, number in the millions.
Reached by telephone on Sunday afternoon, Mr. Rithy admitted to making the comments on his show, but said he was not only referring to the woman who was raped and murdered in Svay Rieng.
If viewers watched the clip all the way to the end, he said, they would see he apologized for what he said, and claimed it was only humor.
Mr. Rithy said his intent was to educate women.
“I want to do whatever I can for women to avoid the hand of the evil of rape and murder,” he said. “I am not afraid of facing the truth because I don’t have bad intentions toward any individual.”
However, women’s rights activists organized an online petition on Saturday demanding that Mr. Rithy apologize publicly and be held accountable to the government’s new code of conduct for media outlets reporting on violence against women. The petition had about 1,500 signatures as of last night.
So Phina, a 38-year-old author who signed the petition, said listening to the clip of Mr. Rithy’s comments almost brought her to tears.
“It’s so inhumane, unethical and cruel to all women around the world,” Ms. Phina said. “It’s so wrong at many levels.”
She said she hoped the petition would force Mr. Rithy to apologize and be a lesson to other journalists as well.
“It’s quite common. This one just hit the spot and we cannot remain silent anymore,” she said. “We have to say something or they will just knock on us women again and again without taking responsibility or knowing how they hurt women, victims and their families.”
The swift response to the petition showed that Cambodian women were starting to speak up against victim-blaming, Ms. Phina said.
“I think women now are really capable and they understand this issue more,” she said. “So I’m happy that they are united and acting quickly.”
Ros Sopheap, executive director of Gender and Development for Cambodia, said the petition reflects the feelings of individuals, rather than any particular NGO.
She said she had signed it herself in hopes it would keep the government accountable to its own code of conduct.
“How can we change the view of society when mainstream media are blaming the victim?” Ms. Sopheap said.
Comments blaming victims for their own rape are commonplace in mass media, Ms. Sopheap said, and encourages society to think the same.
The petition will be submitted to the information and women’s affairs ministries today or Tuesday, Ms. Sopheap said.
Last month, the information and women’s affairs ministries signed a new code of conduct for reporting on violence against women that calls on news outlets to “avoid blaming or faulting women for all violence that has happened to them” and to “reduce victims/survivors shame,” among other guidelines.
Ouk Kimseng, Information Ministry spokesman, said he had not seen the petition against Mr. Rithy.
However, “if there are such comments, it is an inappropriate act and not correct,” he said. “Such comments are totally against the code of ethics and the code of conduct that has just been passed for all to implement.”
Mr. Kimseng said if the petition was submitted to the ministry, officials would have to review it first before deciding whether to take action against the station.
Mr. Rithy said he did not know who had organized the petition, but would nevertheless apologize today.
“Hang Meas has no intention to make anyone feel sad because of Hang Meas, because we make news for the common benefit, social benefit and public benefit,” Mr. Rithy said.
“I am not afraid to apologize because we are reporters. We are not afraid of correcting.”
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated So Phina’s age as 28.