“For a spokesman, there is nothing called off the record,” declared Information Minister Khieu Kanharith during a friendship lunch he hosted for a group of senior journalists.
Over the years, the minister has taken the lead in communicating with the media and responding to any questions posed by journalists.
The Ministry of Information has even organised training for many spokespeople and information officers at different ministries and departments across the country.
Nevertheless, unlike the Information Minister, who has a strong experience in dealing with the media, the newly trained spokespeople and other government officials still find it very difficult in answering journalists’ questions and providing useful information that the public needs.
Of course, there is no silver bullet to solve this problem. But, one bill can boost their capacity and there is no other better bill than the currently discussed Freedom of Information (FoI) Law.
With an FoI Law in place, it will make the work of spokespeople easier as they know what they can say and what kind of information they can give to the media and public.
An FoI Law will require government’s ministries and departments to classify information that is genuinely confidential and release the rest of information to the media and public.
Most importantly, the public will reap a significant profit from full information disclosure that can help them better engage in Cambodia’s democratic process and to make more informed decision about their daily life.
Likewise, the media and journalists will also see their work much easier with the adoption of an access to information law.
It will help them minimize professional infractions that can lead to their punishment for defamation and disinformation due to the lack of information and evidence that frequently occurs without full access to information.
We hope that the National Assembly will move forward with the adoption of the FoI law without further delay.
Moeun Chhean Nariddh,
Director, Cambodia Institute for Media Studies,
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The views expressed above are solely the author’s and do not reflect any positions taken by The Phnom Penh Post.