The Health Ministry yesterday urged journalists not to name or show pictures of COVID-19 patients because it violates their right to privacy.
Ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine made the call during a roundtable discussion between the Health and Information ministries and the Cambodian Club of Journalists.
She noted an unnamed media institution violated the rights of a Cambodian patient by publishing his name and photographs.
“To me, it is unacceptable. So I would like call on every journalist to be aware of this because it strongly affects the individual’s family,” Ms Vandine said. “It is about ethical journalism which takes into consideration patients’ rights to privacy and dignity. Identifying them is a form of discrimination.”
She also voiced concern over the increasing spread of fake news about the virus which is causing panic among the public.
“Fake news about COVID-19 which is being disseminated in our society is more fearful than the actual virus itself because those who create it are trying to scare people and cause turmoil,” Ms Vandine said. I would like encourage people to stop believing and spreading fake news and to check the facts from credible sources such as the Health Ministry and reliable media institutions.”
“Sometimes our journalists do not pay much attention to individual privacy. They write or post stories which identify victims and violate individual privacy,” Pen Bona, CCJ president, said. “The right of an individual has to be respected and our journalists need to bear that in mind.”
On fake news, Mr Bona noted such online posts get wider public attention than factual ones and also spread faster.
“In Cambodia, it is unfortunate factual news is not as widely shared or talked about as much as fake news,” he said.
Phos Sovann, director-general of General Department of Information and Broadcasting, yesterday said Cambodia honours freedom of expression for everyone but some journalists or electronic websites abuse that right.
“Our goal is to open press freedom in the Kingdom but I would like to call for action against fake news,” he said.
Mr Sovann said a big challenge facing the media sector now is some journalists are becoming whistleblowers without verifying the facts.
“[Some] journalists spread fake news by basing reports on fake news posted in social media without checking the facts,” he said.