Tep Asnarith, spokesperson for the Ministry of Information, has reiterated that freedom of the press does not extend to messages that are political in nature, or contain an agenda. 

His explanation came in response to a report by the Cambodian Journalists Alliance (CamboJa), which was released on December 28.

The CamboJa report claimed that 44 journalists or independent media outlets had faced some form of harassment in 2023, especially in the months leading up to the July 23 general election.

Asnarith said the rights and freedom of the press, including the rights of free speech and access to information, have been upheld by successive governments, including the incumbent.

He said journalists are given the complete freedom to make a living in the Kingdom, and are able to complete their work without being disturbed in any way. They have fulfilled their roles, sharing information and actively covering news stories across the nation.

“We are grateful to all of the journalists who adhere to their ethical and professional codes. We thank them for not overstepping the boundaries of their roles and violating the rights and dignity of others. They have respected their legal obligations,” said Asnarith. 

“Freedom of the press does not cover the speeches of all individuals or groups, especially any activity that is political in nature or agenda. We have promoted the rights and freedom of the press, the right to free speech and access to information,” he added.

He explained that the information ministry and the government alike pay close attention to protecting journalists’ rights and upholding freedom of the press, freedom of expression and freedom of participation in national development. 

The CamboJa report claimed that at least six journalists had been detained and imprisoned in 2023, while 2022 saw seven detained on charges of extortion or spreading misinformation.

Nop Vy said on December 31 that he had no response to the spokesman’s comments on the report, but highlighted his belief that the government is a key actor in improving the freedom of the press in Cambodia, and that the report offered valuable input to the government.

“The government should take part in protecting the rights of journalists, as long as they adhere to an ethical and professional code. I suggest that the government implement mechanisms that will strengthen the capacity of journalists who fail to meet these standards,” he said.

Vy added that the Kingdom has comprehensive press laws, and believes that the courts should apply them to any journalist who behave unprofessionally.