Prime Minister Hun Sen thanked journalists for accurately depicting the Kingdom in their news coverage and positively contributing to national development while news professionals called on the government to provide them with legal support.
The prime minister’s statement came ahead of the 4th media correspondents’ gala on Tuesday which will see much of the Kingdom’s press corps congregate at the Koh Pich Convention and Exhibition Centre in Phnom Penh.
In a Facebook post on Sunday, Hun Sen said: “I thank national and international journalists for sharing accurate and positive information about Cambodia. [This news] contributes to national development.”
Ministry of Information spokesman Phos Sovann said more than 5,000 news professionals including owners of television and radio stations, magazines, newspapers, and websites will join members of journalist associations and others for the meeting.
He said the ministry will also forward requests from journalist associations to the prime minister ahead of the media correspondents’ gala.
Sovann said: “We will distil the requests [at a meeting] so that the head of the government can review them. They [journalists] want the government to provide them with lawyers to protect [the industry] and they made other requests such as the means of transportation like garment workers receive. Since they face issues in daily life, they also requested access to the NSSF [National Social Security Fund].”
He also said a recently established political party had requested the government to rescind a May 2018 tripartite declaration between the ministries of Interior; Information; and Posts and Telecommunications.
The declaration saw the ministries agree to jointly combat the spread of misinformation that may cause unrest, defame Khmer culture and traditions or damage the economy via text, voice, photograph and video.
“The [party] proposed points that the Ministry of information has already received from human rights organisations and committees,” Sovann said.
Club of Cambodian Journalists (CCJ) president Pen Bona said the CCJ had received requests that courts refrain from using the Criminal Code in defamation cases and apply the Law on the Press instead.
He said journalists hoped that in doing so, it would send a message to local authorities that they must cooperate with journalists.
“Overall, [the CCJ] requests that the government do something useful for journalists and assist them in performing their jobs better.
“They would like to see the Ministry of Information spokesman [Sovann] share information more broadly and cooperate with journalists to ensure accurate information is shared,” he said.
Bona maintained that journalists and professional associations should attempt to procure legal representation on their own before asking the government to provide them with a legal defence.
In late 2017, the Ministry of Information said Cambodia had up to 530 registered media institutions. Of these, there were 34 foreign-language print media institutions, more than 200 radio stations, 20 TV stations and 148 online media outlets.