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First of nine chapters agreed on for draft information law

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Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith. AKP

First of nine chapters agreed on for draft information law

An inter-ministerial meeting to review the draft Access to Information Law led by Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith on Thursday reached an agreement on the first of nine chapters.

The process to draft the law, to include 38 articles over nine chapters, began in 2013.

The Ministry of Information is leading the draft procedure with the participation of Unesco, the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the Club of Cambodian Journalists and civil society organisations.

Meas Sophorn, the under-secretary of state and spokesman for the Ministry of Information, said the Access to Information Law draft review had achieved good results.

“We have achieved one chapter and our committee has set subsequent dates for meetings at the appropriate time. It is a good sign that the main relevant [groups] reached an agreement and approval on one chapter of the draft law,” Sophorn said.

Minister of Information Kanharith said the government handed his ministry the task of drafting the Access to Information Law in November 2013, with consultations with relevant groups, including journalists.

In February 2015, the Ministry of Information cooperated with Unesco in Cambodia to create a technical working group called TWGA21 for discussions on the draft law, with financial support from the UN body.

Sophorn said the Ministry of Information will put in place procedures to speed up the draft process.

Pen Bona, president of Club of Cambodian Journalists (CCJ), said the completion of the chapter showed the process of drafting the Access to Information Law was moving forward.

It will subsequently go to the Council of Ministers for a decision, before being sent to the National Assembly for approval.

“It is good to see that the law has moved forward. This law is important for the public as well as journalists as it requires authorities to provide information as requested and reply within a particular timeframe."

“In the past, it was up to the authorities whether or not they supplied information,” Bona said.

The president of the Union of Journalist Federations of Cambodia Huy Vannak said: “The Ministry of Information has drafted a law that is useful for both sides, especially to ensure access to information for journalists so they can serve the public interest.”