Facebook Personality Stands By Crude VOD Comments

Photo: Pheng Vannak's Facebook account

PHNOM PENH – Pheng Vannak, a Facebook personality who used misogynistic language towards a VOD female journalist, has lashed out against his condemnation by NGOs, saying he will not apologize.

Vannak criticized a woman journalist at the now-closed VOD with defamatory content on Feb. 11 following her story on Feb. 9 that Hun Sen's oldest son Hun Manet had authorized the sending of $100,000 in quake aid to Turkey.

The report was denounce as untrue by the government and two letters, the first one expressing regret and another one expressing a "late" apology, by VOD failed to prevent the news outlet from losing its media licence.

Vannak wrote in Khmer on his Facebook page, “As a young girl, but with a wild character…with such a cheap character, whoever marries you would be finished…”

Forty NGOs issued an open letter to the Women’s Affairs Ministry, Information Ministry, Culture Ministry, and Telecommunication Ministry to take immediate action against Vannak.

They said Vannak’s misogynistic statements could undermine the government’s effort in promoting gender equality, women’s empowerment, and the SDG goal to eliminate gender-based discriminatory mindsets by 2023.

Particularly, the number of women in journalism would drastically decline, impeding women from pursuing media professions, considering that the job is demanding and challenging while they are constantly being harassed and insulted from doing their duty, they said.

The remarks were a serious breach of the media code of conduct, which was jointly developed by the Information and Women's affairs ministries.

“We request the ministries to take firm legal action against Pheng Vannak to provide justice to the woman who is being abused and persecuted and to set a good example in society,” the NGOs said.

They urged Vannak to acknowledge his mistake and publicly apologize to the victim and asked the ministries to commend he receives a training course on gender-sensitive reporting.

On the same day, Pheng Vannak went live on his Facebook page responding to the civil groups’ open letter, saying he did not have a reason to apologize.

“An apology is very easy [to say]. I can just say two words, but I am not wrong,” he said during his live stream on Feb. 14. He said the civil society groups only act on behalf of their donors.

Secretary of State for the Ministry of Women's Affairs Man Chenda and Sar Sinet, deputy director in charge of legal protection at the ministry, could not be reached for comment.

However, Sar Sinet told RFI Khmer that the victims can seek legal intervention if they think that they are being insulted and their dignity is seriously compromised.

Eng Chandy, executive director of Gender and Development for Cambodia, said the harassed victim feels intimidated and needs time to calm her emotions.

It is a time to show support for women, she said, adding that the civil group will lend hands to the victim as much as possible.

“He’s also a journalist and should not use words that show no respect,” said Chandy. “If he cannot discard his misogynistic attitude, his reporting will not contribute to the reduction of women and girl violence in society.”

Chandy said that in the digital era, a lot of online verbal harassment has been seen. She said it is like a mirror reflecting the offline harassment that has not been in the spotlight, leading to unknown cases of female harassment and violence.

She called on all relevant ministries to strengthen their policy to combat gender-based violence while money should be sufficiently and properly allocated for the matter.

Out of 5,000 journalists, only 470 are female, equivalent to just 9.4 percent, according to the Information Ministry.

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