I NFORMATION Minister Ieng Mouly defended the draft press law as a temporary measure which was not designed to stem criticism of the government.
"You can criticise the government. What we cannot accept is the words, the language used.
"In Cambodia, when you compare someone to an animal, it is very insulting," he said in reference to the suspended Oddomkete Khmae newspaper's alleged description of the Co-Prime Ministers as "dogs".
Mouly claimed the law's jail provisions were based on Untac law.
"We don't put people in jail just because they write. According to Untac [law] if you insult people you will go to jail."
Journalists had to learn not to use emotive, insulting language which could incite people to violence.
Mouly went so far as to suggest that the law could help protect journalists, citing the case of murdered Samleng Yuvachun Khmer editor Non Chan.
He said the government was not in a position to "control all the armed elements" in Cambodia.
The editor had been killed because of provocative, insulting comments in his paper which could have been prevented by the draft law, Mouly said.
The law would not be used to discourage reporting of issues such as corruption, he said.
"Everyone talks about corruption. No one goes to jail for telling about corruption."
Mouly said he believed the law's imprisonment provisions would be removed at some time in the future, when Cambodia had developed a complete set of penal laws and after journalists had been trained to be "responsible".
He said the draft press law was a response to confusion among judges about what penalties could be laid against offending journalists.
He believed fines, rather than imprisonment, would be the most common punishment meted out by the courts.