Cambodian Journalism Review

Press Protection Law Needed in Cambodia
October 25, 2007, 4:34 am
Filed under: Press Freedom

Letter to the editor, The Cambodia Daily

Press Protection Law Needed in Cambodia

We welcome the improvement of press freedom in Cambodia cited in “Group Raises Cambodian Press Ranking to “Partly Free,” Thursday, Page 16).

            However, Cambodian press freedom, like its democracy, is very fragile and seems to have only come along with economic aid from the international community. If the government no longer needs the donors’ financial assistance, particularly when it gets an influx of oil revenue, Cambodia’s media freedom may be restricted.

            We agree that Cambodian journalists “have the rights to criticize officials from the top level to the bottom,” as Cambodian People’s Party lawmaker said. However, many have done so at their own risks. Several journalists have been killed, wounded, intimidated, sued or arrested since the early 1990s. No arrests have been made for perpetrators of most murders, particularly those believed to be politically motivated.

            Many journalists and newspapers have decided to exercise self-censorship by ignoring a lot of important, sensitive stories that might lead them to being handcuffed or killed. The decriminalization of defamation is only good at face value as journalists can still be jailed for disinformation.

            While some government institutions are kind enough to give information to journalists, others are not as cooperative. Journalists’ request for interviews or documents have often been turned down or referred to higher officials who might also not be helpful.

            To prove that the government genuinely cares for press freedom, it should quickly adopt the long-delayed Freedom of Information law that will allow journalists and the public to have open access to all kinds of information.

            The government should also completely abolish jail sentences of journalists as defined in Article 20 of the Cambodian Press Law, which states that “no person shall be arrested or subject to criminal charges as result of expression of opinion.

Moeun Chhean Nariddh

Phnom Penh

4 May 2007




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