Some 50 people including journalists, government officials, civil society organisation (CSO) and embassy representatives gathered at a hotel in Phnom Penh to mark International Day for Universal Access to Information on Monday.
The gathering highlighted the crucial role access to information plays in saving lives and mitigating the impact of the Covid-19 crisis.
On November 17, 2015, UNESCO designated September 28 as the International Day for Universal Access to Information.
The Ministry of Information and UNESCO released a joint statement saying that honouring the International Day for Universal Access to Information was extremely important in Cambodia because the ministry, in consultation with UN agencies, CSOs and stakeholders are working to approve a law on access to information later this year.
The statement read: “Humans know that getting correct and timely information could be the difference between life and death.
“Getting information could also make it easier for people to respond to crises such as the confinement of people, travel and school restrictions, virus testing, medical equipment supplies and economic aid packages.”
Ministry spokesman Meas Sophoan said the government has endeavoured to encourage media freedom as it works to establish a law on access to information.
“We see that rights and freedoms in getting information in Cambodia are widely used and received from all sources. Cambodians get information fast and from many sources,” he said.
The Union of Journalist Federations of Cambodia (UJFC) also released a statement marking the day. The UJFC encouraged reporters and social media users in Cambodia to continue accessing information to strengthen national-level capacities.
“We can use this right to learn about all landscapes, not just our national progress. But we also have to monitor the ever-changing progressive state of problems in the region and the world.
“We hope that this law will become a means to contribute to strengthening attitudes, mindsets and culture,” the UJFC statement said.
It said the new law would hopefully encourage citizens and the government to work together to develop the nation.
“Today, UJFC would like to join reporters in Cambodia and around the world in marking the International Day for Access to Information.
“The UN General Assembly declared the day with the intention of creating a participatory opportunity for the world to achieve millennium development goals,” it said.
UNESCO representative to Cambodia Sardar Umar Alam said Cambodia has been given more freedom to get information and mentioned the draft law on access to information.
“A law on access to information in Cambodia will be approved soon and it will have international standards in giving freedom of full expression. The main principle of this law is to state clearly a right to get reliable and smooth information,” he said.