A controversial draft subde-cree to the 1995 Press law is continuing to draw criticism
from a Cambodian journalists' group.
The 1996 draft sub-decree, designed to regulate newspaper licensing, includes provisions
including educational and mental health standards for editors and publishers that
are widely perceived as a threat to press freedom.
During a UNESCO-sponsored discussion forum on freedom of the press in Phnom Penh
in June 2000, UNESCO's regional communications advisor, Wijayan-anda Jayaweera, said
the sub-decree potentially "...would impose limitation on the freedom of expression
The Chairman of the Cambodian Association for the Protection of Journalists (CAPJ),
Um Sarin, says the provisions of the sub-decree are neither wanted nor needed by
"We don't want to have a press law to limit Cambodian journalists' entry to
the profession," said Sarin.
Another concern of Cambodian journalists is the press law and its sub-decree's reference
to threats to "political stability" and "national security" as
justification to temporarily curtail freedom of the press.
Voice of America reporter Khieu Kola said that the sub-decree's lack of definition
of "political stability" and "national security" leaves the law
open to abuse.
"I think that the sub-decree would undermine many of the international standards
written into the press law, provide a tool for control of the press, and would be
a serious step backward for freedom of the press in Cambodia," said Kola.
Secretary of State for the Ministry of Information, Khieu Kan-harith denied the sub-decree
would be a threat to press freedom.
"My role is to raise the standards of the press," said Kanharith.
Kanharith said that the long-delayed sub-decree would empower journalist associations
to guarantee press freedom. He said that the ministry would introduce new provisions
in the sub-decree forbidding the government from suing a newspaper without prior
approval of journalists' associations, including the CPP-aligned League of Cambodian
The sub-decree would be sent to the Council of Ministers for final approval only
when there were no more complaints about it being a threat to press freedom.
"We are waiting for more complaints and if we don't receive any we will send
it to Council of Ministers," said Kanharith. "The sub-decree is not designed
to put political pressure on the press."