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Unions back newspaper closures

Cheang Sokha / Khmer Times Share:
Information Minister Khieu Kanharith explains the closure of the newspapers yesterday. KT/Chor Sokunthea

Unions and media associations have expressed their support for the Ministry of Information’s closure of 330 inactive local newspapers.

Huy Vannak, president of the Union of Journalist Federations in Cambodia, said he supported the ministry’s efforts to strengthen the media profession in the country.

“Repealing the licences of bloated and inactive media groups is not closure of operating companies nor an action against freedom of expression, but will help improve journalism in the nation,” he said.

“We also urge the ministry to continue cleaning up media businesses to ensure that they comply with laws and ethics for journalists.”

Information Minister Khieu Kanharith yesterday deleted 330 newspapers from the government’s registered list because they had either not renewed their licences or failed to publish for several years.

“Today we deleted 330 expired newspapers and newspapers with no publications,” Mr Kanharith posted on his Facebook page.

He said there are currently 388 active newspapers in the country, 207 magazines and 25 newsletters along with 200 radio stations, 20 televisions stations and 148 websites.

The closure of the inactive newspapers came after criticism that the media outlets were not publishing regularly and were used as a front to extort money from criminals.

Um Sarin, president of the Cambodian Association for the Protection of Journalists, welcomed the closure of the inactive publications.

“It means Mr Kanharith is stopping bad press from spoiling society,” he said.

Moeun Sothy, the publisher of the four-page Samleng Polkor newspaper, which opened in 2005, said he was not sure if his title was one of those shut by the ministry.

He said his publication had been inactive for several years due to a lack of financial support.

“We published about 100 editions at the start,” he said. “It cost me between $150 and $200 for each issue. I had to stop it because I had no money.”

Despite being inactive, Mr Sothy said he renewed the licence for his newspaper every year and published online news instead.

Phos Sovann, director-general of information and broadcasting at the ministry, said officials had spent about ten months reviewing the activities of newspapers nationwide before deciding to close the inactive titles.

“Some of them register just to get a licence and have press cards,” he said. “We want to see what their reaction is to being closed.”

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