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Information access law to be finalised next month

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The Ministry of Information on Tuesday concluded the final revision by key ministries of the draft Law onAccess to Information, without making any major amendments. It will be submitted to the Council of Ministers to be rubber-stamped by the end of September or beginning of October. MINISTRY OF INFORMATION

Information access law to be finalised next month

The Ministry of Information on Tuesday concluded the final revision by key ministries of the draft Law on Access to Information, without making any major amendments. It will be submitted to the Council of Ministers to be rubber-stamped by the end of September or beginning of October.

Department of Information and Broadcasting director-general and Ministry of Information spokesman Phos Sovann told The Post on Wednesday that during the meeting of key ministries, led by Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith, the working group only corrected some wording in the draft law.

“We have concluded the final cleanup of the draft law. The major ministries involved in the law were selected to meet and clean up any areas that needed to be improved. We only made minor changes to the wording,” he said.

Sovann said the Ministry of Information would now organise another team to ensure it meets legal standards.

“I think that by the end of September, or early in October at the latest, we can send the draft law to the Council of Ministers,” he said.

Club of Cambodian Journalists executive director Chhay Sophal applauded the ministries for speeding up the drafting of the law and said it would help the general public to gain access to information from public institutions.

“It’s a model law for which the Royal Government has collected national and international opinion from communities, citizens, civil society organisations and national and international NGOs.

“The law is publically available on the Ministry of Information website where people all over the world can comment. If this law has gone through the major ministries, it’s no problem to send it to the Council of Ministers,” he said.

Union of Journalist Federations of Cambodia president Huy Vannak also extended his congratulations to the Ministry of Information and all relevant parties for successfully drafting the law. But he said it may take time for people to adjust to having it.

“Normally, when a law is introduced, it takes time to implement it effectively. We’ll need a change of behaviour by ministry spokespersons to ensure people are granted comprehensive access to information,” he said.

He said the law would greatly help Cambodia’s development concerning governance and leadership and by creating a culture of engagement.

Soeng Sen Karuna, the senior investigator at rights group Adhoc, an NGO that has provided input for the draft law, welcomed the fact that the lawmakers had been open to comments from many civil society organisations in drafting the law.

But he said was unsure whether the ministry had taken the comments on board. “It’s great that civil society organisations were invited to comment, but if they don’t accept the recommendations, it’s equivalent to being meaningless,” he said.

The drafting of the Law on Access to Information, which comprises nine chapters and 38 articles, was led by the Ministry of Information with participation from representatives of Unesco, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Club of Cambodian Journalists.

The law took several years to draft and the project received financial support from Unesco.

The government gave the Ministry of Information the task in November 2013, and since then, the ministry has led consultation forums with journalists, civil society organisations and other ministries.

In February 2015, the Ministry of Information, in cooperation with Unesco, formed the Technical Working Group on Access to Information (TWG/A2I) to discuss and amend the draft law.

TWG/A2I’s work was concluded last year.

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