I NFORMATION Minister Ieng Mouly says the press law is clear and responds to the
Mouly said he hoped that once the law is promulgated
journalists would be more interested in taking their responsibilities by
providing people with fair reporting and they will know what they can and cannot
Mouly said that journalists would not be jailed for expressing
Speaking at the International Federation of Journalists
conference on July 25 - and in a seperate statement to the Post - he said that
the most serious matter was Article 12 which deals with the contentious - and in
the law, undefined - phrases "national security" and "political stability."
"The national security is a very serious business. I don't think that
just criticizing the government or a minister can affect national security," he
He said that national security could be affected only if there was
a serious situation that could bring down the government illegally or create a
situation where Cambodia was at war with another country. Threats to national
security could also be any newspaper article which defeated military or police
The minister said that the law could be amended at any time,
"but we have to experience this law first. You cannot say it is bad before you
implement the law".
"We cannot use the article to close down or
confiscate any newspaper because it criticizes the government.
allows for free publication for all truthful information. We can punish only if
there is something false which can affect the honor and dignity of a
Mouly said his ministry and the Ministry of Interior must act in
co-operation in any action against newspapers.
"We cannot close a
newspaper without a reason and without the decision of the court.
that is the rule of law," he said.
Mouly's definitions of the
contentious phrases are similar to those urged by some MPs to be included in the
law, during a Parliamentary debate on July 18. However, moves to have the
definitions enshrined in law were soundly defeated during that
Critics said the government was exercising "legislative power"
by blocking attempts to have the phrases defined in law. They said that the law
remained tremendously vague and left the government with much opportunity to
abuse its power. As a result, they said, the law could be enforced at the
government's will to throw more journalists in jail.
"The whole law is
meaningless. This is a license to people who implement the law to abuse the
law," one observer said, adding that defining those terms outside the law was a
violation of the constitution.
"Public institutions can virtually define
anything as a violation of political stability and national security. There is
no control over that," he added. He and other observers said that the
definitions should have been legalized as the sub-decree can be revoked or
KJA advisor Mike Fowler said "It's certainly better than having
no definition at all. It would be a better law if they had taken out political
stability. Political stability is a term that you really can't define. How are
you going to define that?" he added.
Fowler said he hoped that the
government was genuinely dedicated to having a free press and enforcing the law
fairly to allow dissent and free speech. However, he added, the way the law was
written also raised the possibility that it will be implemented to suppress
"As long as you can interpret it [the law] almost any way, it
can be applied arbitrarily. Very bad journalism done by political allies could
go unpunished, but legitimate criticism from opponents could be punished. It
certainly could be under this law," he said.
Loy Sim Chheang, Assembly
vice-chairman, said Premiers Prince Norodom Ranariddh and Hun Sen would sign a
Royal code accepting the adopted press law. He said that the code would be
forwarded to Chea Sim, acting Head of State, for his final signature.
LCJ President Chum Kanal said "I'm very concerned about our journalists
under this law which is very restrictive. We will talk with the government to
KJA President Pin Samkhon said he was not satisfied with
the passage of the press law, which left national security and political
"We will ask foreign countries to build a good jail
with an air-conditioner for journalists," he said.