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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Ministry of Social Affairs bans reporters

Ministry of Social Affairs bans reporters

If you have noticed less news about the Ministry of Social Affairs lately, it could

be because the ministry has banned all but three Cambodian newspapers from entering

its premises.

According to a sign posted on the window of the guard house a month ago, the only

newspapers permitted to enter are three large daily papers that the ministry has

deemed "more ethical."

"Allowed in: Journalists from Rasmei Kampuchea, Koh Santepheap, Kampuchea Thmey.

Journalists from all other newspapers are strictly banned," the sign says.

A security guard working in the guard house said the order came from a vice minister.

"I am just doing my duty. It is not written by me, but by the administrator,"

he said.

Minister of Social Affairs Ith Sam Heng, reached by phone, said he was too busy to

talk about the ban.

Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said the notice is aimed at unethical journalists

who solicit bribes.

"Some journalists who I don't want to name asked money from the officials. If

they do not get the money, they write untrue articles to defame the officials,"

Kanharith told the Post.

Kanarith said officials complain, leaving him stuck in the middle. He said although

the press law doesn't allow bans on particular newspapers, he thought the ban was

understandable.

"We have a specific department to deal with the press," said Nim Thoth,

secretary of state of the Ministry of Social Affairs. "It is not directly under

my control so I did not order this announcement. I don't think that any departments

or person have the right to make this kind of order," Thoth said.

No journalists, except a Post reporter who went to the ministry to get information

about labor issues and was denied access, reported being directly affected by the

rule. But Phan Sophat, a journalist from Radio Free Asia, said his colleagues experienced

similar bans. He said the restrictions are a political ploy used by officials to

avoid talking to newspapers that do not support the interest of the ministry.

"If it is truly a policy from the ministry, it is total discrimination. It does

hurt the free press and the freedom to access information of all journalists,"

Sophat said.

Om Chan Dara, the president of the Khmer Journalist Friendship Association, called

the order "a way to restrict the journalist's right to gather the information.

It is incorrect."

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