The Law on Access to information is being finalised and will soon be sent to the Council of Ministers for approval.
Meas Sophorn, an undersecretary of state for the Information Ministry, said yesterday the ministry has organised a meeting with the Council of Jurists, to review and revise the draft law on the right to information.
“This morning, we have decided on the form of the law and will continue to discuss this matter with the relevant ministries and institutions to prepare an official document to be sent to the Council of Ministers in the near future,” he said.
Sophorn added that the law is not only for journalists but also for the general public.
“This law aims to ensure that citizens have the right to access information from public institutions, which benefits them and is a part of the government’s effort,” he said.
The Technical Working Group on the Drafting of the Access to Information Law has been established to allow development partners and civil society organisations to consult on the draft law.
“The technical working group consists of three main components: the first is the composition of the Royal Government, including the Ministries of Information, Justice, the Council of Ministers’ representatives, and representatives from the Ministry of National Assembly-Senate Relations and Inspection,” he said.
“The second component is the United Nations Representative in Cambodia, UNESCO, and OHCHRC, and the third component is the civil society group which include the Advocacy and Policy Institution Organisations (API), CCIM, the Cambodian Women’s Center, the Department of Media and Communication, and the Club of Cambodian Journalists.”
Executive Director of the Cambodian Journalists Alliance, Nop Vy, said: “We have been waiting for the law to be approved for too long We are glad that the law is being finalised despite the draft law being criticised by CSOs for a lack of international standards,” he said.
“I think this law has a lot of good points because there is no law that encourages people to access information, and after this law is passed, we will have a basis to push for implementation so that the officials can properly fulfill their duties,” he said, adding that there is also no current content of the law that requires officials to provide information to the people.
“As we all know, the content of the current press law is less effective in the practice of journalists, because there is no punishment for officials who do not fulfill their obligations to provide information,” Vy said. “The access to information law will provide a boost for journalists to access information so that their stories are complete, in-depth, and balanced.”
Lam Socheat, director of the Advocacy and Policy Institute, said that the law on access to information separates information that the government considers confidential and information that the public can use.
Socheat also said that more than half of the draft law does not meet international standards.
“The CSOs have requested to edit some articles of the law to meet the international standards, but the government working group has said that it is not yet possible due to the economic, social, and political context of our country,” he added.
“This law is a request of CSOs, and the CSOs also joined the technical team of the Ministry of Information. This law will play an important role in disseminating information to the people, especially the information that citizens need to know, even if the people do not ask, it is the obligation of the state,” said Chak Sopheap, executive director for the Cambodian Center for Human Rights. “From our observations, we see a lot of positive developments in this legislative procedure compared to other legislative procedures in Cambodia because of the involved parties.”