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Newspaper closed for defaming the King

Newspaper closed for defaming the King

THE MINISTRY of Information (MoI) has ordered a 30-day suspension of the Cambodia

News Bulletin for a story the Ministry says defames King Norodom Sihanouk and threatens

Cambodia's political stability.

The bilingual Cambodia News Bulletin had its publication suspended once already this

year after running an article accusing the Minister for the Council of Ministers,

Sok An, of accepting bribes.

The latest suspension came after the Cambodia News Bulletin published in its July

10 issue a Khmer translation of a story which first appeared on the South China Morning

Post's web site.

The MoI said the story "The Search for One Who Would Be King," breached

Chapter Two, Article 7 of Cambodia's constitution which states "The King shall

be inviolable." And it also breached Article 12 of the Cambodia Press Law which

does not allow publication of "any information which may affect national security

and political security," says MoI.

The MoI is also considering banning from Cambodia theSouth China Morning Post's Bangkok-based

journalist, William Barnes, who wrote the story.

On July 19 the King issued a statement saying he planned to file suit in a Hong Kong

court against Barnes for slander.

The story reviewed the King's reign, examined his role in Cambodian society, and

explored his character and behavioral traits. It also looked at who are the likely

candidates to succeed the King.

Ouk Kim Seng, the publisher of the Cambodia News Bulletin, said: "It is a commentary

piece and I don't think it harms the political stability or the national security."

He said he waited 10 days after the story first appeared on the South China Morning

Post's web site to see if there was any negative reaction from the Government.

"There was no reaction from the Ministry of Information so I just reproduced

it so Cambodian readers can see what is happening outside Cambodia. There are a lot

of opinions about the King and about the succession, but Cambodia people never have

the chance to read it," he said.

The Committee to Protect Journalists, an international organization that defends

the freedom of the press worldwide, urged the Minister of Information Lu Lay Sreng

to lift the suspension order immediately, saying it was "disturbed by the Ministry's

action."

The Paris-based World Association of Newspapers says the suspension of the paper,

and the possible banning of Barnes, is a clear breach of the right to freedom of

expression guaranteed in numerous international conventions - including the International

Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Cambodia is a signatory.

Seng told the Post he is consulting with lawyers about possibly counter-suing the

Government over the suspension of the newspaper.

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