Cambodian Journalism Review


All Parties Stand to Gain From Freedom of Information Law
September 29, 2011, 2:26 am
Filed under: Free Speech

All Parties Stand to Gain From Freedom of Information Law

Letter to The Cambodia Daily, Thursday, September 29, 2011

 

           I read with great interest the move to legalize freedom of information in Cambodia in the article “Group Backs Freedom of Information Draft Law,” Sept 27, Page 1.

          Regardless of which parties or politicians sponsor the Freedom of Information Law (FoI), the passing of the access to information legislation will be of a great benefit for all sectors of the society, including the government itself.

         With a FoI law in place, the government can promote transparency, good governance and social accountability, which are deemed the best weapons to fight corruption in Cambodia.

          Most importantly, the public will reap a significant profit from full information disclosure that can help them better engage in Cambodia’s democratic process and to make more informed decision about their daily life.

         Likewise, the media and journalists will also see their work much easier with the adoption of an access to information law.

         I share the concern raised by other fellow journalists regarding the difficulties the Cambodian media professionals face in seeking public documents and information.

        First, virtually all documents were destroyed throughout the country by the Khmer Rouge regime between 1975 and 1979. Before 1975, the National Library in Phnom Penh had some 325,000 volumes of official records. However, only 65,000 volumes remained after the collapse of the Khmer Rouge regime though new documents and records have been restored and produced over the last three decades.

       Second, many journalists are able to get access to the government-held records only at the mercy of officials who are willing to release partial information to the media while keeping secret other important information concerning sensitive and controversial issues.

      Thus, Cambodian journalists are still caught in a climate of fear of legal prosecution for defamation and disinformation due to the lack of such crucial information while reporting on sensitive issues such as corruption, government’s contracts, land disputes and other wrongdoings.

      With adequate information and evidence to back up the allegations in their stories, journalists can also avoid such legal pitfalls and greatly help the government in its efforts to fight corruption and to promote transparency, good governance and social accountability.  

 

Moeun Chhean Nariddh

Director, Cambodia Institute for Media Studies

Phnom Penh

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