The Ministry of Information has pledged to consider inputs from journalists and press associations in drafting amendments to the Press Law.
Speaking during a consultative forum attended by journalists and press association representatives in Phnom Penh on Thursday, Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said the ministry’s working group will pool their inputs in a bid to make improvements to the Press Law.
The forum was organised by the Cambodian Association for the Protection of Journalists (CAPJ) in cooperation with the Ministry of Information and support of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ).
Kanharith said the forum was the first gathering to voice concerns and suggestions before the ministry’s committee drafted amendments to the Press Law.
“I will gather all your inputs. My working group will take note of them for consideration. I will create a chat group in Telegram [messaging app] where participants can offer suggestions in the amendment process.
“My working group will consider them while drafting the amendments. After that, we will organise a team and invite active journalist association representatives to work together until it becomes a law.
“The ministry will not close the door in drafting this law. We will invite journalists to give ideas just like when we amended the right to information law,” he said.
Kanharith pointed out that the current Press Law, which was introduced in 1995 mainly to oversee the media including TV, newspapers and radio, does not correspond with the new trends in the digital age.
He said the emergence of social media and online news, among others, warrants an amendment to the existing Press Law.
“Things have changed now as we have around 700 media outlets. We have hundreds of online video platforms, social media such as Facebook, YouTube, and other modern outlets. This is a new era.
“There have also been changes in the criteria for a chief editor, which requires us to think about the knowledge an editor should acquire,” he said.
The Ministry of Information first started reviewing amendments to the Press Law on August 27.
CAPJ president Um Sarin said for 24 years since the Press Law was promulgated in 2005, the press sector in the country has seen remarkable changes, with press freedom and freedom of expression acknowledged and respected well.
He said the law guarantees press freedom in line with articles 31 and 41 of the Constitution.
“The Press Law has a lot of good points. For example, journalists and their news sources are protected from arrest and imprisonment when expressing their opinions. But even so, the law is generally dated because the press sector in Cambodia has rapidly changed.
“That’s why journalists propose important amendments to the law so that it corresponds to the new trend and latest development in the press sector,” he said.
Cambodia Defenders Project director Sok Sam Oeun who also attended the forum as a guest speaker welcomed the proposed amendment and engagement with the press in drafting it.
“It is good that we review an amendment to the Press Law. In the Criminal Code, there is an article that says the Press Law can be applied. But then there is only one chapter consisting of two articles, and they are not enough to protect journalists,” he said.
Sam Oeun also called on the ministry to consult independent legal experts in amending the law.