Local Crimes: It’s also News even if It’s Not Nice…

Police officers sit on a patrol car in front of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court. Photo by TANG CHHIN SOTHY / AFP

Government officials recently expressed alarm that a too important place is given to bloody or sordid local crimes by the news media.   

First, they stressed, the way these events are covered might not, in many cases, respect the code of ethics of journalists, and moreover, spreading these bloody or sordid cases in the media would be affecting the country's image.

On the first point, one cannot, unfortunately, totally blame them. Too often, the right to privacy as well as the right to one’s image and presumption of innocence are not respected. One suspects, in particular, that the photos shown with the coverage of those news items were “provided” by police services and that the media releasing them with complacency hardly have any other ethical principle than to satisfy the unhealthy voyeurism that lives in all of us, or almost, and triggers sales, or rather clicks.

As for the second issue, one can understand that the government authorities take a dim view of the far-for-flattering image of the country that such local-crime news coverage projects. But one must remind them that, for a journalist, the public’s right to information comes before the “good image” of the country, which is the responsibility of government communication, and not the independent media. 

In all newsrooms of the world—except of course in the case of the media that make them a major part of their coverage—the importance given to crime and sensational type of stories are a matter for discussion. They are assessed based on their cultural, social, societal and political significance, and this, in accordance with the editorial line that each media has adopted and with which the government authorities must not interfere even if they don’t like it. 



Related Articles