Cambodian ‘Agents for Change’ journalists see results in Vietnam study tour

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Mr. Chhoun Voun, Deputy Secretariat of the Cambodian National Road Safety Committee, speaks during the awards ceremony.
Mr. Chhoun Voun, Deputy Secretariat of the Cambodian National Road Safety Committee, speaks during the awards ceremony.
H.E Khiev Kahnarith of the Cambodian Ministry of Information speaks to 65 attendees at an Editors forum organised as part of the initiative.
H.E Khiev Kahnarith of the Cambodian Ministry of Information speaks to 65 attendees at an Editors forum organised as part of the initiative.
Cambodian journalists taking part in the road safety reporting training course.
Cambodian journalists taking part in the road safety reporting training course.
The Agents For Change programme was launched by AIP Foundation in 2015.
The Agents For Change programme was launched by AIP Foundation in 2015.

A group of Cambodian journalists have taken part in a road safety study tour in neighbouring Vietnam as part of an ‘Agents For Change’ media training initiative supported by the FIA Foundation.

The seven journalists participating were recipients of recent Journalist Awards for Excellence in Road Safety Media, organised by the AIP Foundation and the Cambodian government. As part of the collaborative study tour in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, they exchanged ideas with Vietnamese road safety experts, shared experiences on reporting and enforcing motorcycle helmet laws, particularly for passengers and children, and discussed how to use the media to promote road safety.

The journalists were chosen from twenty who applied and submitted projects on road safety that were published on print and online media, as well as on television and radio outlets. The winners were selected by a combination of official scores from judges, as well as online engagement from the public via social media and traditional media channels. The radio portion of the competition attracted 10,000 listeners.

“The reporting done by both the applicants and winners showcases the importance of using the media to enforce legislative changes, especially in light of the mandatory helmet law that went into effect in January of this year,” H.E Khiev Kahnarith, of the Cambodian Ministry of Information, said. “I am hopeful for how we as the government can collaborate with journalists to make our country’s roads safer for all.”

The Cambodian journalists were joined by H.E Keam Marethiya, of the Cambodian Ministry of Information; H.E Ty Long, the Deputy of the Cambodian Department of Traffic Police and Public Order of the National Police; officials from the Ho Chi Minh City Police Department Traffic Safety Committee; Vietnamese reporters; and AIP Foundation staff.

“Vietnam began enforcing a mandatory helmet law in 2007 and we have been looking at its successes as we craft our own legislation,” H.E Ty Long said. “Cambodia’s passenger helmet law only went into effect in January of this year, but we have already seen an increase helmet-wearing practices nationwide.”

“It is insightful to meet with those from the international road safety community to learn about their national and city action plans, as well as their recommendations for how to combine law enforcement and high-quality media reporting,” H.E Keam Marethiya said.

The study tour took place over three days at multiple venues across the city, including the Department of Road Safety, and the Department of Police Enforcement.

“Talking with people from another country who are tackling a similar issue will hopefully give me a fresh perspective on how to report on road safety,” Ouk Savborey, a journalist with SEATV, said. “I’m learning about the various angles to take when writing about road safety, as well as passenger and child helmet use. These can range from using a public health or human interest perspective, to an economic or data-based one.”

AIP Foundation and FIA Foundation launched the “Agents for Change” programme in 2015. Since its start, the initiative has hosted policymaker and journalists training workshops as well as the awards scheme. The programme empowers media professionals to use their influence to help policymakers create positive changes throughout Cambodia. As part of the initiative editors from leading Cambodian news outlets took part in a forum to learn about road safety reporting and national legislative initiatives. Moderators provided attendees with reliable information sources, best practices, and encouraged them to use innovative angles when reporting on the subject and to publish images that reinforce proper helmet use. The editors were also joined by government officials who updated them on the current state of legislation and law enforcement in Cambodia. The media plays a critical role in influencing the public’s behaviour, and the event helped editors recognize the power they hold when discussing this pressing national issue.

From 2011 to 2013, data showed that only 6% of motorcycle passengers and 64% of motorcycle drivers in Cambodia wore helmets. In Vietnam in 2013, six years after the country implemented its mandatory helmet law, 83% of motorcycle passengers and 96% of motorcycle drivers wore helmets. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that in the event of a road crash, wearing a motorcycle helmet correctly decreases the risk of death by 40% and severe injury by 70%.