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Minister says officials must work with media

Ry Sochan / Khmer Times Share:
Khieu Kanharith speaks at a press conference at the Office of the Council of Ministers. KT/Khem Sovannara

Information Minister Khieu Kanharith has called on officials not to view journalists as the enemy, but instead urged them to work with the news outlets and the media to stop the spread of fake news.

His statement came during a discussion forum yesterday which aimed to evaluate
the results of the 2019 press conference held by ministries and provincial administration regarding journalism.

Kanharith said it is important that his ministry responds urgently to fake news, particularly by clarifying figure accuracy and reflecting the truth.

“Fake news should wake officials up and make them seek an understanding of where the news is coming from and why. When fake news impacts a person’s or organisation’s image, we must seek to clarify it,” he said.

“Officials have to check whether there is some truth in articles that are written. If there is truth in an article, we need to work on how it can be addressed. Sometimes, journalists are right, so we have to find a way to exit the controversy and work together to affect change,” Kanharith said.

Kanharith also said officials should not deem journalists who write negative articles as opponents and called on officials to not see all convicted journalists and people who spread fake news as criminals, as some are victims.

“We cannot put all the people who spread fake news in prison. We have to come together to combat the issue, working with news outlets and journalists to eradicate it,” he said.

Executive director of the Cambodian Journalists Alliance Nop Vy told Khmer Times yesterday that there is currently no institution which verifies what constitutes fake news. Instead, legal action has only been taken by the government on what they consider as fake news.

“The best option for a solution is to raise awareness among people,” he said.

“Some people who post or share information online do not know it is fake news. If they are then jailed because of it, it affects their fundamental freedom of expression and deters people from entering into democratic debate,” he said.

“It is not only the role of the government [to regulate fake news], but should be a collaboration between the government, journalist associations, the public and NGOs,” Vy said.

He said instead of punishing people, the authorities should educate them on what fake
news is and how to avoid sharing or perpetuating it.

This response, he said, is the best way to ensure that people can make informed decisions about what they post and let them see the government is supporting public participation.

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