J OURNALISTS can become Cambodia's "fourth power" - after the National Assembly, the government and the judiciary - if they respect themselves by providing readers with correct information, Minister of Information Ieng Mouly said.
"We want the professionals of journalism to become the fourth power," he told an journalists' ethics seminar in Phnom Penh on Dec 26.
"Unless they are recognized and respected, not only by the government but also by people and readers, the journalists will not be able to have this power."
Journalists could only become an effective opposition if they reported correct information and earned respect, he said.
Pin Samkhon, president of the Khmer Journalists Association (KJA), said journalists had to review their conduct and prepare themselves for Cambodia's move toward Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) membership.
"For our country to enter ASEAN, there is a requirement for good-quality and professional journalism. It requires the journalists respect not only for citizens in our country, but also for those in neighboring nations," he told the Post.
Journalists should not insult neighboring countries such as Vietnam and Thailand, he said.
The KJA's annual congress held on Dec 24 expressed dissatisfaction with the government's draft press law and urged it to amend the law, but the association also promised to continue its efforts to get journalists to respect a journalistic code of ethics.
Meanwhile, a Khmer newspaper has received a two-week suspension for publishing an allegedly defamatory article about the National Assembly, the Royal Government and the judiciary.
In a Dec 21 commentary, the Monaksika Khmer (Khmer Conscience) newspaper described some National Assembly members as being "foolish" in their salary demands, and said the government was "crazy" for power, corrupt and guilty of lying to the people. The judiciary system was labeled by the paper as a "thief" which robbed innocent people.
Secretary of State for Information Khieu Kanharith, who ordered the suspension, said the article defamed the Kingdom's supreme organs. If the paper continued its attitude after the suspension the government would ban it and take it's publishers to court.