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Journos seek greater access

ABOUT 100 journalists from 21 news outlets across Cambodia gathered at a meeting in Phnom Penh yesterday and urged the government to adopt a policy on freedom of information.

The consultative meeting on access to information in Cambodia deemed that implementing an open government policy to freedom of information was essential to improving the quality of journalism in the Kingdom.

Lam Socheat, deputy director of the Advocacy and Policy Institute, said that during the consultative meeting in March 2006, the government promised to develop a clear policy framework for a freedom of information law that year.

“We know the Cambodian government has already developed a policy on freedom of information, but the policy has not yet been adopted,” he said.

Thach Pen, secretary of state at the Ministry of Information, confirmed that the policy had already been developed.

“The draft law on freedom of information is under the process and control of the government,” said Thach Pen. “The reason we are late in working on this is because we need more time to study it before finalising.”

For Sok Sovann, chairman of the Press Council of Cambodia, this policy would not only help accelerate social development and poverty reduction, but also prevent journalists from getting into legal troubles as a result of their reporting.

“I would like the Cambodian government to adopt this policy so that it will reduce the number of journalists who have been accused or arrested for misinformation.”

“[The policy] would prevent [the government] from accusing, arresting or jailing journalists in connection with misinformation in their reports and publications.”

He added that a freedom to information law would help journalists, and the public at large, get access to public policy, information on development projects and public expenditures.

This meeting follows a September plea from a coalition of 19 local and international coalitions asking the government to sign off on a freedom of information policy draft.

At the time, Som Kim Suor, minister of National Assembly-Senate Relations, said the draft policy was still under review and that the government would approve it by 2013.

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