The Ministry of Information yesterday trumpeted Cambodia’s free press credentials during an event for World Press Freedom Day yesterday, though a political observer being sued over remarks he made on radio said the situation for freedom of expression was still grim.
Information Minister Khieu Kanharith lauded Cambodia’s top spot among ASEAN nations in Reporters Without Borders’ annual World Press Freedom Index, although globally the Kingdom ranks 128 out of 180.
He also spoke of “journalists in name only” who use the title as a cover for extortion, and called on all journalists “to respect their professional ethics”.
Club of Cambodian Journalists director Chhay Sophal said 19 journalists had been accused of extortion in the past 12 months, and a further four accused of defamation.
Prominent analyst Ou Virak – currently being sued by the CPP over comments he made during a Radio Free Asia interview – said while Cambodian press freedom has increased in recent years, the overall situation of freedom of expression had deteriorated.
“It’s not the media that’s being targeted. But . . . if you’re targeting people who are prominent in the media, then you’re probably limiting what gets reported and what gets discussed,” said Virak
Meanwhile, the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights (CCHR) launched a social media campaign in support of World Press Freedom Day, highlighting nine cases of harassment of journalists in the last 12 months, including two assaults and a murder.
“For Cambodia to enjoy genuine press freedom, the judiciary and government need to stop targeting those who dare to expose corruption and criticize the powerful,” CCHR’s Protecting Fundamental Freedoms Project coordinator Chhay Chhunly said.
Additional reporting by Jack Davies