A s the Press Law draft is important for everyone in Cambodia, let me ask you to print my remarks in your next issue.
1- As reported by your July 1-14 issue, "Article 10 allows anyone who believes that any article or text, even the meaning of the article or the 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". This article has to be split into two parts for consideration:
- The last: The right of response is fundamental as substance of liberty of expression. Nobody can oppose it. It has to be consecrated as general principle of law.
- The first: The demand of retraction. As long as everyone is free to speak, to express his idea, nobody cannot oblige any one else to retract what is his opinion. Retraction sounds like a denial of the liberty of expression. As such, it is an unacceptable coercion.
2- 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 first".
This power given to the Information Ministry seems exorbitant.
How can an Information Ministry decide whether national security and public order are involved? Are public order and national security involved when an article mentions that military pay is not sufficient to let the soldier meet his duties normally, free from any corruption? The word involved is large enough to include every deed, even the most innocent one.
The approval of the Court doesn't change anything to the matter, since the Court has to decide prior to any legal proceedings. In fact before bringing a verdict, the judge has to follow successive steps, where the rights of defense have to be respected (if not, the whole proceedings are null and void). When the Ministry seeks Court approval, the judge hears only a sound, how can he make his judgment without being attracted into a prejudice in favor of the demanding party?
Should the Court give approval without hearing the accused under legal proceedings, the jurisdiction will be tied to its this approval when the matter comes to litigation. Finally, Article 12 is nothing but a trap to keep the judiciary at the Executive's disposal.
- Douc Rasy, Cambodian League for Human Rights, Paris