The Ministry of Information issued a statement yesterday to address the concerns of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) regarding press freedom in Cambodia, saying they are trying to mislead the public.
On Monday, 57 NGOs called on the government to set free arbitrarily detained journalists, drop the apparently politically motivated charges against journalists and restore media freedom to commemorate the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists.
However, the ministry responded saying that the strategy of the NGOs is to attract budget, interest and popularity for their groups and to mislead the public.
It said the government has firmly adhered to the promotion of democracy, respect for human rights, freedom of the press and in accordance with Articles 31 and 41 of the Cambodian Constitution and has properly implemented the Law on the Press.
“Through the implementation of this law, the media sector in Cambodia is now proudly developing without discrimination or intimidation. At the same time, national and international journalists are now fulfilling their careers everywhere in the Kingdom,” the ministry said.
It added that the implementation of legal measures against those journalists is in accordance with the facts and the law. Therefore, all professionals, including media professionals, must abide by the laws and regulations in force in the Kingdom of Cambodia to avoid legal liability.
Moreover, the ministry will also suspend or revoke licences if they find journalists in violation of its laws, regulations and contracts. The ministry has revoked the licences of media outlets in the past.
The 57 NGOs expressed their deep concern about the Cambodian government’s harassment of independent media outlets and their journalists in the statement.
The statement said that the government should immediately drop the allegedly politically motivated charges against the journalists and unconditionally release them.
It said Cambodia should repeal or amend repressive laws that unjustifiably impede media freedom and freedom of expression. The government should immediately reverse the revocations of licences of independent media outlets and refrain from similarly revoking licences in the future, it said.
According to the Cambodian Journalists Alliance (CamboJA), crimes against journalists and the persecution of journalists seem to be on the rise. In the last 10 months alone, CamboJA recorded 59 journalists who have been the victims of violence, arrest, death and court complaints. Of those, 27 were arrested, seven were victims of violence and one died in what police have said was a traffic accident.