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
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.
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
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
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.