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NEC warns press on elections

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NEC officials hold a press conference on May 17. Pha Lina

NEC warns press on elections

The National Election Committee (NEC) has reminded media outlets to abide by the Code of Conduct for Media during the coming campaign season for July’s national elections, and called on reporters to remain professional, fair and transparent.

In a press release, the NEC has settled on May 29 to draw lots to determine the order of political parties on the ballot. The drawing of the lots will be held at the meeting hall at Building “S” of the Ministry of Interior complex at 8:30am.

The NEC press release said the Code of Conduct for Media contains requirements and prohibitions they must conform to.

The requirements are as follows:

• Journalist associations, journalist institutions or independent journalists who wish to cover news on the electoral process can apply for registration directly at the NEC. Alternatively, they may download the registration form from NEC’s website.

As of May 23, the NEC has issued press passes to 284 journalists from 35 media organisations – including 51 foreign journalists from 15 media outlets – to cover the elections.

• For national journalists, the registration deadline is 10 days prior to election day, while for international journalists the registration deadline is 5:30pm three days before election day.
• National and international journalists who wish to take pictures in voter registration stations and polling and ballot counting stations should notify the chief of the Voters Registration Task Force in advance.

The media is prohibited from the following activities:

• Broadcasting news that leads to confusion and loss of confidence in the election.
• Broadcasting news based on rumour or lack of evidence.
• Using provocative language that may cause disorder or violence.
• Publishing news that affects national security and political and social stablity.
• Expressing personal opinions or prejudice in reported events.
• Interfering or disrupting voter registration, polling and ballot-counting processes.
• Conducting interviews at voter registration stations, polling stations and ballot-counting stations.

On May 26, the NEC announced it had registered 20 political parties for the elections. Cambodian People’s Party spokesman Sok Eysan said it is proper for the NEC to draw lots for parties to be named on the ballot. He said it didn’t matter which number the CPP drew. '

“If your restaurant sells good food, it doesn’t matter if your store is located on a small road or in the forest,” he said,

Funcinpec spokesman Nheb Bun Chin said he was unaware of the procedure to draw lots for the ballot. However, he hoped to get a number at the top or bottom of the list.

“I want a number at the top of the list or the very bottom because citizens will find it easier to mark. But for older voters, it’s best to have an easier number for them to locate,” he said.

Sam Kuntheami, executive director of the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections, said he didn’t support the NEC’s decision to restrict the media’s freedom during the election. He contends professional journalists will uphold their standards.

“Journalists have their own professional standards. Even if the NEC doesn’t release the code of conduct, they won’t break the law or cause instability. As far as we can see, journalists have not done anything that contradicts the NEC code. If you restrict broadcasting, citizens will stay in the dark,” Kuntheami said.

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