The Ministry of Information yesterday issued a letter urging all media outlets to use the royally bestowed title “samdech” when referring to those who hold the honorific, including King Norodom Sihamoni and Prime Minister Hun Sen.
The document, signed by Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith, also warned press to abide by their licensing conditions, including respecting journalistic ethics and not publishing material that undermines the Kingdom’s religion, security, public order and social safety.
It noted many outlets were forgetting to use the samdech title, which denotes “outstanding leadership and love from the people” and has legal value.
“This title has been offered by royal decree, the people of Cambodia should have this kind of respect by addressing the person that has this kind of title,” said Ouk Kimseng, spokesman for the Ministry of Information.
Kimseng said there were currently no regulations punishing outlets that didn’t comply with the directive and declined to comment on such laws being introduced in the future.
“The Ministry of Information starts with a humble suggestion or request,” he said.
Moeun Chhean Nariddh, who heads the Cambodian Institute of Media Studies, said only state-owned outlets should be forced to comply as private companies had a right to choose.
Pen Bona, president of the Club of Cambodian Journalists, disagreed, arguing people should show respect to the King and other samdechs, which include top Cambodian People’s Party officials Sar Kheng, Say Chhum and Heng Samrin.
“It is not going to affect their text if they write samdech in the media,” he added.