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Cabinet rejects press bill draft

Cabinet rejects press bill draft

The Council of Ministers was expected to adopt a new press law yesterday (Feb

24) which did not contain pre-publication censorship.

However it was

unclear at press time what other measures would be included to control

newspapers but Information Ministry spokesman Sieng Lapress said it would

contain a code of ethics.

The proposals have not be made public and the

Human Rights Commission of the National Assembly has not seen a copy of

them.

A previous draft was not approved by an earlier Council of

Ministers meeting on Feb 9. Senior government sources said it was not passed

because it was "too liberal."

When asked if the earlier draft had been

rejected by the Council of Ministers, Sieng said, "no, it was returned for

re-examination by the Council of Ministers, because there were some questions on

the pro's and con's of the various parts of the law."

He said: "I am

confident that the press law will be passed and that it will not contain

provisions for pre-publication censorship."

The bill will then be put to

the National Assembly which is not due to reconvene until April.

The new

press law will replace that passed by the State of Cambodia (SOC) government

which is widely considered by law and human rights experts to be repressive. It

contains provisions for pre-publication censorship but these have not been

enforced.

Under the SOC law foreign-owned newspapers such as the Post

could have been banned. Lapress said there would be no provision to outlaw them

in the new law and they would not be subject to additional journalistic

regulations.

However Lapress did say that foreign-owned newspapers would

be regulated by commercial law similar to all companies owned by foreigners.

Lapress said that the new proposed bill was more relaxed than the one

prepared by SOC and the press would not lose freedoms.

He said new act

was not intended bring state pressure on the press, but to give general

guidelines to journalists.

"We are looking for a balance which will

benefit both sides, the government and the press," he said.

It is also

believed that there is ambiguity in a constitutional provision related to

protection of human rights and freedom of the press. In practice, access to

these civil liberties is at stake.

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