Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday commended three ministers for being open to journalists.
Addressing some 6,000 attendees during the 4th media correspondents’ gala at the capital’s Koh Pich Convention and Exhibition Centre, he said Minister of National Defence Tea Banh, Minister of Interior Sar Kheng and Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol had acted as role models by directly answering reporters’ questions on the spot.
He urged officials at all levels to follow suit and consider journalists as development partners of the government.
“Journalists should take more active roles in addressing officials’ inaction because we need a society that is clean and transparent.
“We must acknowledge that social injustice contributes to social instability and can lead to armed conflicts. So I suggest journalists dare express themselves, but without fabricating the truth in their reportage.
“They must dare report officials’ inactions and other issues related to irregularities, corruption and injustice. All ministers must not be afraid of journalists and avoid considering them as enemies,” he said.
However, Hun Sen called on journalists to refrain from violating other people’s rights and disseminating false, one-sided information. He said the media serves as a reflection of various social issues and thus helps the government address them in a timely and transparent manner.
“I give [reporters] magic powers to extend their professionalism, gain trust from the pubic and defend themselves before the law.
“But to make the most of the magic power, don’t violate the right of others and don’t distort the truth.
Hun Sen said the media also plays a role in maintaining political stability and developing the economy. But fabricating news for personal gain, he said, will have adverse effects on society.
“When it comes to [bad effects] caused by the media, the level of destruction is even bigger than a bomb if the information they publish pollutes [society].
“A bomb might destroy or smash a house, but fabricated news can ravage the whole nation. When it comes to the economy, it can make our macroeconomic framework fall apart because of psychological war caused by fabricated news,” he said.
Club of Cambodian Journalists (CCJ) president Pen Bona lauded Hun Sen’s cordial gestures toward journalists and called on officials at all levels to heed his guidance.
“Not only spokespersons should be open to journalists. As Samdech [Hun Sen] suggested, officials including provincial governors and even ministers and heads of state institutions should come forward to address journalists when problems arise.
“What he [Hun Sen] has raised is what we’ve been hoping for. Now he has granted our requests,” he said.
Bona welcomed Hun Sen’s call for journalists to maintain professional ethics and refrain from violating other people’s rights.
“Avoiding rights violations and truth distortion are within the framework of our professionalism. We share his [Hun Sen’s] concerns as there are many journalists or self-proclaimed journalists who use their profession to violate the rights of others,” he said.
Regarding the freedom of access to information, the prime minister said the Ministry of Information had prepared a draft law and referred it to the Ministry of Justice. He said the latter was examining the draft law before it is forwarded to the Council of Ministers.
“The Law on Access to Information must be approved this year. Now the Ministry of Justice is working on it and it should not take too long to verify it with the council.
“It must be verified with the Criminal Code to ensure consistency between various laws and provisions on penalties,” he said.