Somaly Mam, a lesson for the media, NGOs and donors
The Cambodia Daily reported this Thursday that “After Somaly Mam Resigns, Trafficking NGOs Anxious.” I think that such anxiety should not correspond to transparent and professional organizations, because a honest NGO does not relay in fantastic stories like the ones of Somaly Mam Foundation, but in processes. Donors relaying their funds in processes should not be affected also, because they are already trained to receive objective results from the transparent organizations they use to reach the victims of social evils and poverty for years. Those donors that have been attracted by Hollywood-and-even-Bolliwood-stories-like will be by sure stop to give funds to organizations that relay in scripts rather than in processes.
I am not agree with what Samleang Seila of APLE said to The Cambodia Daily in that article that “It would be sending a very confusing message about human trafficking in Cambodia and the number of victims and who the victims are”. Yes, we need that confusion. We need that donors become more critical, more conscious and more active in auditing their own support. This is a benefit for the real victims or those who benefit from the action of any ONG or official department. A blind support or a support attracted by tricks, does not help the people in real need. It is important also to show results, to show stories, but those results and stories are inside very well designed processes, not on the mouth of celebrities. We don’t need superheroes, but we need superprocesses with real aims and results to fight social evils.
This is a very good lesson for the media. The Pulitzer must be given to Simon Mark, to the Newsweek and to the Cambodia Daily. In journalism skepticism is a virtue.
The first thing we should realize is that victims of sexual trafficking do not go in front to cameras to speak out. It is a dream for several media to have the story of a real victim in cameras or radio in order to increase rating. Of course, most media in the Somaly Mam’s case were taking the flag of a great campaign to end slavery and we can believe that it was their genuine intention and thanks and sorry for the dismay. But as well as donors should learn how to do when it is about supporting causes, the media must learn also that there are more effective means to do and one is applying to the rigor of journalism, being objective and respecting also the dignity of victims.
Then we need to go through professionals and persons on the terrain. In Cambodia we have many organizations, NGOs and officials, with the authentic professionalism to fight realities such as human trafficking. While those organizations are on the terrain following effective processes and needing more funds to increase their effectiveness, the media was hypnotized by a woman who said that she was a sexual slave and coaching her own girls to say the same.