The International Federation of Journalists has urged the government to speedily amend the Press Law and bring it in line with current global press standards to ensure the protection of journalists.
The appeal came after the Information Ministry last week announced that it is open to suggestions from all forms of media and relevant institutions to better organise amendments to the law.
An IFJ statement on Wednesday said it welcomed the fact that the government is actively engaging in discussions to develop a new and more robust law for the country.
It noted that current regulations do not govern new forms of digital media and lack adequate scope to address technological changes that have impacted media.
The statement said the revised law should ensure that government officials respect journalists’ right to do their jobs safely and allow them to gather information.
It said this includes having a clear understanding on their right to access information in a timely manner and allowing them to cover stories based on public interest.
“Basic but critical reforms are necessary right now to make Cambodia’s press law contemporary, relevant and consistent with the principles of establishing, supporting and maintaining a free media in Cambodia,” the statement said.
IFJ noted that compared with many such laws in the region, the legal regime which regulates the press in Cambodia is poorly drafted and contains numerous uncertainties and ambiguities which can be used by those in positions of power to restrict freedom of the press rather than assist it.
“This is about a root and branch reform for the law to be an effective contemporary regulatory framework for the operation of a free press in Cambodia,” it said.
IFJ said a new press law for Cambodia must guarantee ready and inexpensive access to government information and give emphasis to the overriding public interest in granting that access.
It added that criminal defamation provisions of the press law should be urgently repealed.
“Other items for necessary review would be the abolition of crippling and disproportionate civil damages for alleged defamation by journalists and publishers and the establishment of a Cambodian press or media council for the effective self-regulation of the media to deal with resolution of complaints according to a code of ethics,” IFJ said.
Ouk Kimseng, spokesman for the Ministry of Information, yesterday said the ministry is still open to receiving comments for consideration to include as input in the amendment of the Press Law.
“Therefore, they [media groups or relevant institutions] can submit their requests or hold consultative meetings and then issue a draft on what they want and which article they want adjusted in order to protect journalistic professionalism,” he said. “The specific policy stance of the ministry’s leaders is to ensure that the amendment of the Press Law is to increase the protection of press freedom.”