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Hope for freedom of information?

Hope for freedom of information?

Representatives from civil society and the opposition gathered yesterday to push for the adoption of an access to information law – a move that comes less than a month after Prime Minister Hun Sen urged the Ministry of Information to hasten its development.

Two laws dealing with freedom of information – proposed by what was then the Sam Rainsy Party in 2010 and 2012 – have been shot down in the National Assembly, but some participants at yesterday’s workshop were more optimistic about the law’s chances under the current government.

“We have a positive stance that this will happen in the [current] fifth mandate, because people now are implementing social accountability projects,” said Neb Sinthai, director of the Advocacy Policy Institute, one of the workshop’s organisers.

Cambodia National Rescue Party lawmaker-elect Son Chhay, who proposed the last two freedom of information laws, presented his draft law in the workshop’s afternoon session.

The law, he said, would streamline information requests, form an independent commission to decide on requests and ensure that “all the ministries cannot hide their contracts, or their decisions, or the expenses”.

However, despite the government’s seeming willingness to implement the law, he continued, in the past the Cambodian People’s Party has pushed through weakened versions of important legislation in an attempt to appease the international community.

“I’m very worried that Hun Sen is agreeing with the donor countries on the freedom of information law just to please them,” Chhay said.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY STUART WHITE

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