CAMBODIA’S media sector improved in both quality and quantity in 2009, providing more Cambodian news and entertainment, and moving the country further along the path to freedom of expression, Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith said Thursday.
“The media and broadcasting sector in Cambodia has been improving continually, which means a lot of contribution to the strengthening of democracy and guarantees of press freedom in Cambodia,” he said at the launch of the ministry’s annual report.
The minister also applauded the efforts of journalists, who have all “tried their best” to give people the highest-calibre media services possible and to create information links between citizens and the government.
Khieu Kanharith’s comments, however, come just days after a report by the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders, which documented the government’s legal cases against journalists in 2009.
The report says the jailing of Khmer Machas Srok publisher Hang Chakra in July last year broke a pledge made by Prime Minister Hun Sen in 2006 that journalists would no longer be jailed for what they wrote.
“The jailing of several opposition journalists has cruelly shown that the promise has not been kept. It has been compounded by judicial harassment of government opponents and the journalists who interview them,” it stated.
Moeun Chhean Nariddh, director of the Cambodia Institute for Media Studies, said that even though the media sector in Cambodia had improved remarkably, press freedom had fallen away.
He said that action against journalists now takes the form of defamation lawsuits rather than street violence, but that legal threats are as much an “obstacle” to the proper performance of their profession.
According to a ministry report summing up its work in 2009, Cambodia is now home to 385 national newspapers, 172 national magazines,
43 international newspapers, 28 international magazines, 10 imported newspapers, 11 international news agencies, 21 journalist associations, 133 printing houses and six publishing establishments.