Archive for July 20th, 2007

Thursday, 19.7.2007: Law on Right to Access to Information Is Important for Journalists in Cambodia

Posted on 20 July 2007. Filed under: Week 517 |

The Mirror, Vol. 11, No. 517

“In a discussion with journalists on the improvement and protection of Cambodian journalists on the morning of 18 July 2007 at Sunway Hotel, Phnom Penh, representatives of Khmer journalists stressed that the law on the right to access to information is very important, because so far, access to information is very difficult and it sometimes leads to situations that journalists have to face complaints at the court.

“Mr. Om Chandara, the President of the League of Cambodian Journalists, said that he is very proud that many Khmer people work as journalists. However, while journalism is growing, journalists face many problems: such as economic problems in each agency, which forces every agency to advertise their services in order to get money to feed themselves, or they may contradict their professional code of conduct. Very often, journalists also face complaints at the courts, although legislation on journalism states that journalists are not to be arrested for what the report. Recently, a journalist’s camera was confiscated in Pursat, because the journalist had used his camera to take pictures of wood, seized by a prosecutor, and three journalists were arrested in Ratanakiri on accusation of doing wood business illegally. However, other businesspeople [dealing with wood] have never been arrested by officials to be punished. Moreover, despite an explanation that an unintentional mistake had happened at Kampuchea Thmey, this paper was forced to dismiss the person who had made the mistake. In the meantime, Radio Free Asia journalists had to go repeatedly into hiding, and Cambodge Soir is closed because it published an article about the Global Witness report entitled ‘Cambodia’s Family Tree,’ but the owner [of Cambodge Soir closed the newspaper down] claiming that it is bankrupt.

“Mr. Om Chandara continued to speak about legislation related to journalism, pointing out that Article 41 of the Constitution assures press freedom and freedom of expression. The Constitution also guarantees to respect the United Nations pacts, treaties, and agreements related to human rights. And in addition, journalists are happy that Prime Minister Hun Sen canceled Article 63 of the Transitional Criminal Law as far as it relates to defamation. While Article 63 was removed, Articles 59, 60, 61, and 62 are still in force. Therefore, journalists may still face imprisonment from one month to five years. Thus, in order to publish about good governance, corruption, and people’s livelihood, they need to be protected by law. Recently the Ministry of Inspection started to prepare a law on the right to access to information. This law is very important not only for journalists, but also for the people in general, to have the right to access information. So far, when journalists try to collect information, they are often not talked to. Therefore it is very difficult, and when a publication uses a source only from one side, it may be accused of defamation.

“Mr. Um Sarin, the President of the Cambodian Association for the Protection of Journalists, said that in Cambodia, there is more press freedom compared to the nine other ASEAN countries. The publication of information is fast from one area to another, and sometimes there is lots of information, which makes it impossible for journalists to get all information; therefore it has to be considered for what kind of information it is important to have a law on the right to access to information. He said that in fact, there are many pieces of information available, and some information is not very interesting to most people, but other information is very interesting to the public. However, it is often not possible to get such information, for example, after bids for certain kinds of goods have been closed, corruption is revealed. This information is very interesting to the public, but observers or journalists cannot easily get access to check, or to ask for information, because there is no permission given; how can information then be verified? How? Hence, the right to information is a very important issue, and such right can clear the doubts about unfairness, can combat corruption, provide justice in many cases, and provide transparency. Consequently, the right to access to information is very important.

“Mr. Pen Samithi, the President of the Club of Cambodian Journalists, said that at present, journalism in Cambodia, whether journalists are trained or not trained, is found to respect the code of conduct, for example, rude words for addressing another person are not used any longer in newspapers or magazines. Publications about trafficking of children or women, about violence, or rape, etc. are no longer as crude as before. This shows that journalism in Cambodia is moving towards an appropriate professional level. At present, there is still some disagreements about the publication of pictures of violence, some want to further reduce the use of pictures of cruelty or, for example, depicting blood; however, in Thailand and also in Cambodia there is still a lot of use of pictures of violence, with some cover, so that they do not show their objects completely and clearly.

“Mr. Pen Samithi continued that an issue, changing in the application of the code of conduct, is the balance of information that the journalists have to try to seek, in order to balance information from different sources for their publication, but the problem is that this may lead to copyright violations, which often trigger protests; also pornography is published with a warning printed on the publication: “Not for persons under the age of 18.”

“Mr. Thach Phen, Secretary of State of the Ministry of Information, said that any journalist, who uses someone else’s achievements for their own publications, must take responsibility for it in front of the public, because the public has their rights, and the state has its right to protect the honor of the state. Democracy can be applied fully, only depending on the enforcement of the rule of law. Therefore, in order to protect journalists and their clubs and associations, these must strengthen their capacity in leading and advising their members, to apply the code of conduct and their professional ethics properly, and they must dare to protest specifically, if their members violate the law.” Samleng Yuvachun Khmer, Vol.14, #3090, 19.7.2007

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Thursday, 19 July 2007

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.6, #1395, 19.7.2007

  • There Are About 500 Media Companies in Cambodia [says Om Chandara, president of the League of Cambodian Journalists]
  • Japan Will Provide More Than $7.4 Million Grant Aid for Fisheries Development at Cambodian Coastal Areas
  • Japanese Official [Yamamoto Kôzô, Deputy Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry]: Many Japanese Companies Have Confidence in Investments in Cambodia
  • US Ambassador [Joseph Mussomeli] Supports Preah Vihear Temple to Be Listed as a World Heritage Site
  • Samdech Hun Sen Receives South Korean Company [Maruhan Corporation]
  • Man Deflowers His Four Nieces; He Is Arrested by Police

Koh Santepheap, Vol.40, #6095, 19.7.2007

  • Duch Will Be Luckily Detained as the First [in Khmer Rouge Tribunal detention center – ironic]; Khmer Rouge Tribunal Hands Over Cells for the Accused to Ministry of Interior
  • World Bank Announces Supports to Poverty Alleviation Again
  • Nearly $30 Million Aid Received [from Kisan Telecom, South Korea] for Second Level Implementation of Information Technology [in Cambodia]
  • President of Student Movement for Democracy [Mai Veasna] Announces Joining Human Rights Party

Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.14, #3214, 19.7.2007

  • Khmer Kampuchea Krom Federation Threatens to Demonstrate Worldwide and to Complain to International Court about Case of Monk Tim Sakhan [who has recently been defrocked on accusation of perpetrating an offense against the Buddhist law, because he broke the unity between Vietnam and Cambodia]
  • 30 Japanese Investors Come to Study Political Situation and Investment in Cambodia

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.15, #4340, 19.7.2007

  • Cambodian-Lao Border Demarcation Will Be Finished Completely in 2007
  • Thai Brokers Demonstrate against Import of Potatoes through Boeng Trakuon Border Crossing [from Cambodia – Banteay Meanchey]

Samleng Yuvachun Khmer, Vol.14, #3090, 19.7.2007

  • Samdech Krom Preah Will Return to Cambodia to Stay with People and with Norodom Ranariddh Party Soon
  • Court Sentences Heng Pov [former Phnom Penh Municipal Police Commissioner who is now in jail in Cambodia] to 14 Years’ Imprisonment and His Wife to 13 Years’ Imprisonment for Keeping Counterfeit Dollars [he claims innocence, and says the fake money was “planted” by the authorities into his house
  • Law on Right to Access to Information Is Important for Journalists in Cambodia
  • Co-Judges Will Indict Former Khmer Rouge Leaders Next Week

Go to last week’s editorial

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