The Cambodian Centre for Independent Media has warned that press freedom in the country collapsed last year, prompting government officials to rebut the claims.
The centre yesterday released its Challenges for Independent Media 2017 report at the Sunway Hotel in Phnom Penh.
The report, which surveyed 75 media workers from 41 institutions, said the closure of some independent radio stations and newspapers, as well as legal threats against journalists, had a chilling effect on media freedom last year.
It also showed that just 11 percent of journalists thought the sector was moving in the right direction, while 83 percent said media freedom had decreased over the past year.
A further 38 percent of journalists reported that they were verbally attacked or physically assaulted carrying out their duties, 47 percent said they had been threatened in the past, and 67 percent felt they did not have the full freedom to report on all news topics.
The report showed the current generation of journalists has received a significant degree of training and possess understanding of ethics and professionalism.
It also said staff were increasingly working in online media.
The report’s recommendations urged the government to provide support to journalists alongside civil society; promote freedom, safety and protection for media workers; expedite the draft law on access to information; amend the law on the media; decrease pressure on journalists and independent media; as well as increase the commitment to protect press freedom in the country.
CCIM media director Nop Vy said independent media played an important role in democratic society by bringing the voices of victims and ordinary people to the attention of the government.
“If independent media is persecuted or restricted, we will not be able to hear the voices of victims,” he said. “This problem, if not dealt with immediately, will become a wound in society, which could destabilise development”.
Information Ministry spokesman Ouk Kimseng dismissed the report, saying that media in Cambodia was fully free and guaranteed by the law.
He said Cambodia has nearly 5,000 national and international journalists registered at the ministry, and hundreds of press agencies including radio, television, newspapers, magazines and online newspapers.
“Those that issued this report are misrepresenting the truth,” he said.
Mr Kimseng said some news organisations that were shut down or stopped from broadcasting were facing legal cases in the courts after having broken the country’s laws.
Pen Bona, president of the Club of Cambodian Journalists, said press freedom had not collapsed despite the closure of some media outlets.
“The important thing is that journalists must strengthen their ethical and professional standards. Secondly, the country’s laws must be strengthened and implemented,” he said.
George Edgar, European Union ambassador to Cambodia, said that a country without press freedom meant the public would be deprived of access to information and the ability to participate in national development.
He called for media freedom and journalists in the country to be protected.