Prime Minister Hun Sen’s team of lawyers on Monday met with Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith to discuss providing legal aid to journalists facing lawsuits from carrying out their work.
The move came following Hun Sen’s approval to provide legal aid to journalists after a request from the ministry.
The prime minister noted last week that legal aid will only be provided to those who carried out their work professionally.
The legal team will reject any request if the individual violated others’ rights or distorted the news, Hun Sen said.
Ministry spokesman Phos Sovann said on Monday that Kanharith met with lead lawyer Ky Tech and both agreed that any request for legal aid must go through the ministry first.
“If journalists need help, the Ministry of Information must approve that first, meaning they need a confirmation from the ministry before the legal team starts its work,” Sovann said, adding that further discussions were still needed and a working group would be formed.
Tech made it clear at the meeting that any request for legal aid from journalists must go through the ministry because it can ensure that the individual is indeed a professional journalist.
“Some people regard themselves as journalists, but they did not register with the ministry to get the rights to carry out work as journalists.
“They just have a smartphone and say they are journalists. They are not journalists, they are just Facebook users and we will not provide lawyers for them,” he said.
Tech noted that Kanharith said a workshop would be organised by the ministry to make journalists aware of the service.
Cambodian International Federation of Journalists secretary-general Khoun Bunny welcomed the initiative.
“I don’t support journalists who insult others or who are dishonest,” he said.
He said that some journalists in remote areas were unprofessional.
Cambodian Centre for Independent Media director Nop Vy also supported the move on Monday and urged those involved in any conflict to follow the press law.
“Professional journalists normally face complaints filed by government officials. Therefore, the government should instruct their officials to respect journalists’ rights and freedom in their reporting,” Vy said.