The Russian Federation has requested a journalist-free environment for Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev during most of his three-day state visit to the Kingdom, which began last night.
Russia made the request through Cambodia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where it was signed by Secretary of State Long Visalo and sent to the Ministry of Information.
In a statement, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the meeting between Medvedev and Prime Minister Hun Sen, aimed to strengthen ties and cooperation between the two countries, is “private” and off-limits to local reporters. The only exceptions were granted to one reporter each from state-run outlets AKP and TVK.
Director of the ministry’s Information Department, Phos Sovann, said that he ordered “information coordinators” to join the event to later pass on the information to the media, insisting it’s not a “completely” secret event.
“Some events are allowed to be broadcast but some are not, for example [Medvedev’s] visit to the Royal Palace,” he said. “It is not just the conversation with the King, he just wants to visit the Royal Palace and he does not want it to be broadcast. If he meets Samdech, the event will be broadcast as usual.”
To provide security, National Police pulled out all the stops, deploying 10,000 officers to the visiting PM’s destinations in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, according to National Police chief Neth Savoeun.
He also instructed his officers to carefully check the backgrounds of all journalists wishing to attend events.
According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Medvedev arrived in Cambodia at 8pm yesterday at Siem Reap International Airport. He will spend today visiting Angkor Wat and nearby temples before flying to Phnom Penh to sign six documents with Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday.
The deals to be signed include an agreement to exchange information about money laundering and terrorism funding; two cooperation deals between each country’s state-owned media outlets; an “interaction and cooperation” agreement between the countries’ ruling parties; and two memoranda on investment.
Moeun Chhean Nariddh, the director of the Cambodia Institute of Media Studies, said that it’s unusual for a visiting head of state to request that reporters be kept at arm’s length.
He said that the restriction of information is a way to get around freedom of the press, which is enshrined in the Cambodian Constitution.
“It may have a domino effect,” he said. “Other leaders who have suspicious backgrounds may try to restrict media coverage.”
Additional reporting by Igor Kossov