HE Ministry of Information has released the most recent press law to the Khmer
Journalist's Association for comment. A copy has been obtained by the
The previous press law was withdrawn from National Assembly
consideration after domestic and international criticism of the draft. It had
received the approval of the Council of Ministers prior to it submission to the
The new draft appears to take into account much of the
criticism that followed the release of the last draft. According to one press
analyst some problems remain, particularly with that portion of the law which
stipulates how a newspaper might be shut down, and Article 10, which specifies
newspaper obligations with respect to requests for retraction and
"Changes to the draft law are significant, and most are for the
better. By better, I mean more liberal. But two articles are still worrisome.
Further there is no guarantee about what will happen when the draft is returned
to the Council of Ministers," the analyst said.
The two contentious
articles, according to the analyst, are 10 and 12. Article 10 allows anyone who
believes that "any article or text, even if the meaning of the article or text
is implied, or any picture, drawing or photograph affects his honor or dignity,
such person may demand a retraction from and the right to reply to the publisher
of the newspaper." The retraction and reply can be demanded even if the report
Article 12 allows the Ministry of Information to suspend a
publication and collect its material in cases where risks to national security
and public order are involved. However the Ministry must get court approval
According to the press law analyst changes for the better in the
draft were much more extensive. All violations of the law are treated as civil
rather than criminal offenses. In contrast to the last draft, journalists are
not subject to arrest or prosecution for what they write.
The freedom of
information clause in the draft no longer gives the Ministry being queried the
final say in denying information. Newspapers can press suit in court for that
The previous requirement for a single press association has
been dropped, more than one is allowed by the new draft. And, in contrast to the
old draft, the associations are not empowered to grant press cards to members.
Two articles that required government approval to open a bookstore,
printing office and regulated receiving foreign information have been deleted
Two articles were added that make it difficult, if not
impossible for one newspaper to dominate all others by making it illegal for one
foreigner or one person or corporation to own or control more than 20 percent of
the Khmer language newspaper titles for sale in Cambodia.