ARTICLE: Western approaches to ethics training have failed in Cambodia

Picture: untitled by Tom Sodoge, license CC0 1.0

Fergal Quinn, of the University of Limerick, studied the teaching of journalism ethics in a developing country. The author interviewed 25 organizers of journalism training programs in Cambodia and 29 working journalists who have previously studied in these programs.

The press culture in Cambodia is vulnerable, with strong bias toward particular political parties. In the 1990s, United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) intervention intended to encourage the development of a free press, and contributed to a boom in journalism education programs, the author explains.

The results of the analysis show poor application of ethics training. “A vocational Western-oriented approach to program implementation correlated with poor understanding of critical ethical ideals among practitioners”, the study finds. Also, the difference between what is taught and the reality at work has lead to an increasing disbelief that taught ethical beliefs are incompatible with Cambodia culturally.

These factors have contributed to low occupational confidence, poor ethical practices among the journalists and the development of a two-tiered press system.

“A lack of professional confidence among journalists is seen in high levels of self-censorship, poor perceptions of the quality of their peers, a negative sense of their own culture, high levels of fearfulness and high stress levels” the researcher notes.

The author presents two main suggestions for improving the current situation. Firstly, a profound attitudinal shift is needed, negotiating training programs on a situation-by-situation basis. Secondly, any new approach to ethics teaching should take into account the way in which correct ethical behavior is communicated to students.

The article “Failing to Prepare?” was published in the Journal of Media Ethics and is available on the publisher’s website (abstract free).

Picture: untitled by Tom Sodoge, license CC0 1.0

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