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Spokespeople for gov’t require review: official

A senior official at the Ministry of Information has called on the government to review spokespeople at ministries and replace those who are not doing their job properly.

Cambodian journalists have long complained of difficulties in dealing with key ministries or government departments, with appointed spokespeople often refusing to answer questions or simply not picking up the phone.

Ouk Kimseng, a press adviser to the MOI and the deputy director-general of state news agency AKP, made the comments during a workshop for spokespeople on Tuesday.

“My comments were that I suggest the government review the appointment of certain spokespersons at some of the governmental institutions because those who have been appointed as a spokesperson must know their role and responsibility with the media,” he said yesterday.

The MOI often receives informal messages from journalists complaining about the issue, he added.

“Spokespersons are supposed to do something like journalists. They need to know a lot, read a lot, [know] how to talk to the press, how to convey the message.… So they should appoint the right person and send them for training about journalism and the role of a spokesman.”

Ignoring phone calls from reporters, Kimseng continued, displayed “a lack of responsibility” for the appointed job.

Um Sarin, president of the Cambodian Association for Protection of Journalists, said that only a few ministries had spokespeople who “dare to speak to reporters”, citing the Council of Ministers, City Hall and the Foreign Affairs Ministry as examples.

“The rest are difficult because some officials, they do not dare to say [anything] because it’s a risk for him or her, and other guys, they say they do not know clearly about that point. So all the journalists have difficulty getting comment from them,” he said.

Although the government announced reshuffles and training for spokespeople in the past, the situation has not improved, he added.

“[For a] long time, the problem has been the same.”

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