The Club of Cambodian Journalists and the NGO Khana are drafting a code of conduct for media reporting on drug addicts.
Chhay Sophal, CCJ executive director, yesterday told reporters after a workshop on the issue that society considers most drug users as victims of others who tempt them to take drugs or those who experiment out of curiosity.
“So, we want them to kick the habit through treatment,” he said. “As reporters, we have to be careful over our choice of words when writing about drug users, both in the print media, on television or radio, so that we do not further victimise them by causing society to discriminate against them.”
Mr Sophal noted that this is the third code of conduct drawn up by CCJ and Khana, following codes for reporting on woman and children, and on HIV/AIDS. The new drug users code is set to be complete by year’s end, he noted.
“Today, we gathered and discussed the issue with about 20 professional journalists and after this we will meet to fine tune the code’s articles with experts from the government, especially on legal aspects, before it is officially used,” he said.
The draft code has 16 articles that cover all media sectors, both offline and online, including news presentation and news reporting to educate society not to discriminate against or look down on drug users who are victims.
Khana executive director Choub Sok Chamreun said at the workshop yesterday that he expects journalists to participate in helping to reduce any negative perceptions related to drug use in Cambodia.
“This discussion is aimed at finding ways to disseminate information about the reasons why people take to drugs in hopes that the number of drug users will steadily decrease,” he said.
Mr Chamreun added that the code of conduct will be very useful to the media.
CCJ president Pen Bona said yesterday that the codes of conduct are very important guidelines.
“Some journalists do not understand that the reason for these codes of conduct is because we do not want to see the victims of drug use be doubly victimised due to reporting in the media,” he said.
Mr Bona noted that the media also has a role to play in helping to eliminate and prevent negative activities, such as drug use, in society.
Last month, the anti-drugs department stated that in the first nine months of the year, police handled 6,205 drug crimes and arrested more than 13,691 people suspected of drug use and/or trafficking.
Police sent 3,311 drug users to health centres for treatment, 4,054 to rehabilitation centres, and 4,181 were allowed to go back home after treatment.