Information Minister Khieu Kanharith yesterday confirmed that the draft law on Access to Information has been inserted into the 6th mandate of the government’s strategic plan.
In an announcement dated yesterday that addressed public and civil society groups’ requests, Mr Kanharith said the ministry had already finalised the draft Law on Access to Information and put it into the government’s programmes for implementation up to 2023.
“The draft Law on Access to Information consists of nine chapters and 38 articles,” he said. “The bill aims to ensure that people have the rights and freedom to information.”
Mr Kanharith added that the draft Law on Audio-Visual Content, an amendment of the Press Law and a draft sub-decree on Advertisement Management have also been submitted to a working group for review.
He noted that he was pleased by the requests of 19 NGOs and associations on Friday who appealed for haste in the drafting and passing of the Law on Access to Information.
“On behalf of the government, the Information Ministry is willing to accelerate the review on the draft Law on Access to Information,” he said. “I strongly believe that the bill will be submitted to the legislative bodies soon.”
Lam Socheat, director of the Advocacy and Policy Institute, yesterday welcomed the response of the Information Minister to the requests, saying that civil society groups would continue to monitor and ensure the Law on Access to Information would benefit the people.
“I think Minister Kanharith is committed to push for passing the law, which is a good move,” he said. “I know the draft law does not meet international standards, but we will call for amendments later.”
Mr Socheat said while the Law on Access to Information will bring closer communication between government officials and people, including journalists, obstacles still exist.
“For example, the draft law gives government officials up to five days to respond to journalists’ questions in order to obtain information,” he said. “This is not a good solution.”
Mr Socheat also noted that the draft law protects state secrets but does not spell out what areas are covered, adding that the bill requires further discussion.
Huy Vannak, president of the Union of Journalist Federation of Cambodia, yesterday said the draft Law on Access to Information is aimed to address current social trends, noting that it is compulsory to pass this law in order to ensure freedom of information.
“I saw the draft law and I absolutely think it will serve current needs,” he said. “The law will protect journalists and at the same time make sure that journalists do not violate the law.”
Mr Vannak also appealed to relevant parties to deliver their input and concerns so that the draft law can be further fine-tuned.