HE Minister of Information Ieng Mouly spoke at the Foreign Correspondent's Club
of Cambodia (FCCC) and defended government press policy before a packed
The Minister participated in a panel discussion with Nate
Thayer, reporter for the Far Eastern Economic Review, Pin Samkon, president of
the Khmer Journalist's Association (KJA) and T. Mohan, Cambodia Times group
editor on June 22.
Mouly emphasized the necessity for a responsible
domestic press, and how that might be achieved: "We need from time to time to
give a signal [to the Cambodian press] that too much freedom is no freedom at
T. Mohan spoke more strongly: "In a country like Cambodia, if
newspapers are allowed to operate freely without any form of control, there is a
very strong possibility of these newspapers inciting anarchy, and I don't think
that this bodes well for a country that is coming out of decades of
Thayer took what he called a hard line: "There should be no
conditions in which the government is allowed to shut down a newspaper. Problems
that might arise should be handled in the courts under laws against slander and
Ieng Mouly defended the use of the State of Cambodia press law to
suspend publication of the Proum Bayon: "We are still in a transitional period,
we have to implement the existing law. Frankly speaking of course we have had to
suspend some newspapers, but we definitly didn't shut down any newspaper. We
just suspended those who refuse to comply to our directive. We were obliged to
make a decision."
A member of the audience asked: "Isn't the shutting
down of a newspaper more damaging to the government, because this will make
headlines all around the world."
Mouly answered: "Once the new law is
enacted, all the cases will be taken to the court. Once the new law is enacted
we are obliged to implement the existing law."
Later Thayer said : "The
existing press law is not dissimilar to press laws in countries where there is
no freedom of the press. The ability of the Ministries of Interior and
Information to unilaterally shut down newspapers either temporarily or for good
gives them far too broad powers, and any restriction of press should be handled
through an independent judiciary or through libel or slander cases."
an exclusive interview with the Post prior to his briefing last week of the
Cambodian press, Mouly claimed that "there is no intention on the part of the
government to take any strong action against the press."
"Because there are a lot of rumours about harsh control or pressure on the
media, it seems that we are abandoning the press freedom. I can assure you that
there is no decision like that from the government."
As to the draft
press law, Moully told the FCCC crowd: "We have checked the covenant on civil
and political rights and we feel that there is no contradiction with our draft
"This new draft press law is in conformity with the
international covenant on civil and political rights.
"While you are
waiting for a new press law, the existing press law will be available to be
"I want to inform you that there is no intention to restrict
any freedom of expression of the press."