The Ministry of Information is preparing with relevant ministries’ and institutions’ amendments to the Press Law to bring it in line with current reality, while UN human rights monitor for Cambodia Rhona Smith has expressed concerns over press freedom in Cambodia.
Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith said on World Press Freedom Day on Friday that the ministry is discussing revisions to Chapter 2, Article 20, which covers confidential information, and hopes that the inter-ministerial meetings will be completed soon so the amendments can be submitted to the legislative body for approval.
“The Ministry of Information has set up a committee to amend the 1995 Press Law to revise some articles to be in line with the current situation and the needs of the country,” he said.
Kanharith said the Ministry will hold discussions with media organisations and other stakeholders to gather additional input to promote freedom of expression, press freedom and the right to access information.
“We are preparing to amend the law to oblige newspapers and TV and radio stations to publish corrections when they broadcast or publish factual errors. We are obliged to do this,” he said.
The minister also raised questions about editors’ qualifications. “Do editors-in-chief and publishers have to have a degree or not? Today, some publishers write Khmer incorrectly,” he said.
He said a publisher should at least have graduated from Grade 12 and worked for five years in the press sector.
“Be informed that we will make amendments to the law. But we will not submit our recommendations immediately. We are holding discussions in our group and then we will invite journalists and human rights institutions to the table,” Kanharith said.
Cambodian Center for Independent Media director Nop Vy responded: “The important thing is the quality of writing, the quality of the news they publish. “If they don’t have the ability, the readers can decide whether to read the news or not.”
But Vy added that journalists themselves must improve their professionalism.
He said the Press Law had existed for a long time but its implementation had not been effective in helping journalists fulfil their work.
Club of Cambodian Journalists president Pen Bona said the Press Law was created more than 20 years ago and had some goods points, but should be updated.
“First, it protects journalists from being imprisoned for doing their job and it protects sources. This point is very important and must be retained."
“But as the law has existed for a long time, some points should be updated, such as incorporating online media,” Bona said.
The UN’s Smith wrote on Facebook on World Press Freedom Day: “In this context, I am concerned that Cambodia’s rank in Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index fell 10 places further to 143rd last year.”
She encouraged the government to provide free space for all media – online and offline – including through the adoption and implementation of the draft Access to Information Law.
Smith also once again encouraged the government to drop charges against Uon Chhin and Yeang Sothearin, two former Radio Free Asia reporters.