The National Election Committee announced the creation of a Press Reaction Team on Tuesday to protect itself against fabricated news which could threaten its independence and neutrality.
The PRT will operate under direct orders from the NEC’s president to collect information related to the election in all news sources, to analyse whether they are fabricated to defame the NEC and confuse the people, damaging their trust in the committee.
The PRT will then provide a summary of any fake news published to the committee’s president.
It will also cooperate to provide information to the NEC’s spokesman.
Sam Kuntheamy, executive director of the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Election, said the NEC’s purpose in creating the PRT is to protect itself from criticism on social media.
He said this came from the backlash on social media following the dissolution of the CNRP, and carries the risk of directly affecting freedom of the press.
“The creation of this team could affect journalists that abide by high professional standards,” Mr Kuntheamy said.
“Journalists are not like people on Facebook that can criticise what they want.”
Yong Kim Eng, executive director of the People Centre for Development and Peace, said that if the PRT had been created to spread information about NEC’s affairs, it would be a good thing.
However, if it is solely to quickly react to criticism, Mr Kim Eng said it could lead to a lack of independence and neutrality.
“I think the PRT is not going to be welcomed by the people,” Mr Kim Eng said. “The NEC is an independent institute.”
“They should welcome ideas and criticisms from the people.”
Leng Sochea, deputydirector of the PRT said that it was created to help NEC’s internal work, and cannot pressure journalists or civil.
Som Sorida, deputy general secretary of NEC and PRT’s director could not be reached for comment yesterday.