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Debate on press law postponed

Debate on press law postponed

T he nation's new press law is still on hold, this time until

after the ICOR meeting in Tokyo.

Minister of Information Ieng Mouly

denied the government had intentionally delayed moving on the press law to avoid

criticism prior to the important donor's meeting.

Many press and human

rights experts in Phnom Penh have worried that the new law would include

pre-publication censorship. Sources close to internal government discussions say

that there are those in the Council of Ministers who have pushed for

it.

The new press law will replace the former State of Cambodia (SOC)

press law which is still on the books though not enforced.

In spite of

articulating a commitment to freedom of the press, the SOC law "included many

stringent censorship measures which even if they were not enforced would create

an environment of fear and motivate self-censorship," one law expert has

said.

Mouly told the Post that the draft law sent to Council of Ministers

contained no provisions for pre-publication censorship. This contradicted the

statement of Sieng Lapresse, the Spokesman for the Ministry of Information,

given the same day, that the draft law contained pre-publication censorship as

an option.

Sieng said that the delay in the press law was due to the fact

that insufficient copies had been made for distribution to the sixty members of

the Council of Ministers.

H.E. Ieng Mouly said that even if the press law

was passed today, the National Assembly could not act on the law until it

reconvened in April.

"Whatever delays have been involved were necessary

for the fullest and broadest consultation before the next meeting of the

National Assembly" Mouly said. He said the draft press law would be ready at

that time, and it would be accepted by the Assembly.

Mouly added "the the

press law needs to be debated in the National Assembly, and the government has

made some progress, we did not set the law aside."

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