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Press role goes under microscope

Press role goes under microscope

T

HE Minister of Information Ieng Mouly spoke at the Foreign Correspondent's Club

of Cambodia (FCCC) and defended government press policy before a packed

audience.

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

all."

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

war."

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

libel."

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."

In

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."

He added:

"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

press law.

"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

implemented.

"I want to inform you that there is no intention to restrict

any freedom of expression of the press."

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