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NEC dismisses CPJ’s ethics code criticism

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NEC officials talk to the press in September about voter registration for July 29’s national elections. Sreng Meng Srun

NEC dismisses CPJ’s ethics code criticism

The National Election Committee (NEC) on Monday rejected accusations from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a US-based NGO, that the media code of ethics journalists are expected to abide by during the election season would negatively impact the credibility of the July 29 polls.

Shawn Crispin, the CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative, said in a statement released on Sunday that Cambodia’s election-reporting restrictions would not reflect a free and fair process, and that it should be scrapped.

“Cambodia’s election reporting restrictions, if maintained, will ensure the polls have virtually no credibility as free and fair.

“Reporters should be allowed to report and opine freely on the elections without fear of reprisal. This ill-considered code of conduct should be scrapped,” he said.

Som Sorida, NEC deputy secretary-general, said this “condemnation” was intended to “mock, damage and attack” the NEC’s reputation but that the committee is devoted to perform its given role in accordance to the Kingdom’s laws and regulations.

The committee has no intention of doing away with the code of ethics, Sorida said.

“The claim that there are restrictions on reporters . . . the NEC cannot accept this interpretation. This code of ethics has been in place since 2017, that was the time to raise concerns about it,” he said.

On May 29, the NEC introduced guidelines for national and international journalists that included a prohibition from publishing news that leads to “confusion and loss of confidence” in the election, publishing news based on rumour or lack of evidence, and using provocative language that may cause disorder or violence.

It also included publishing news that affects national security and political and social stability, expressing personal opinions or prejudice in reported events, and conducting interviews at voter registration stations, polling stations and ballot-counting stations.

Sorida said before the adoption of the code of ethics last year for the commune elections, a draft was presented to all media groups for review and suggestions, adding that “even the CNRP” stood behind the code’s implementation.

“Therefore any accusation that claims the use of code of ethics has violated this or that, the NEC cannot accept it. We used it for the commune elections in 2017 and received national and international praise,” Sorida said.

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