Journalists are once again allowed to enter the Phnom Penh Municipal Court building following what some believed was a total ban, but they cannot bring their cameras or voice recording equipment, a court official said Monday.
“Reporters are not allowed to bring cameras or tape recorders,” Court Clerks Director Heng Bophea said.
An order signed Oct 21 by Heng Bophea, Chief Prosecutor Ouk Savouth and Court Director Chev Keng stated that “the court doesn’t allow all journalists to enter the compound to cover the news inside.”
Chev Keng said Sunday he was too busy to comment.
In a letter that appeared in Thursday’s edition of the Rasmei Kampuchea newspaper, Chev Keng stated that reporters were not banned from covering hearings.
“[The notice] banned reporters from permanent station in the court and from going from room to room,” he wrote.
Minister of Justice Ang Vong Vathana said Monday that he had asked Chev Keng, who was appointed court director this month, to reconsider his decision after Information Minister Khieu Kanharith asked Ang Vong Vathana to clarify the issue.
Ang Vong Vathana also said that Chev Keng told him the order is not a ban and that he is preparing documents with which reporters can ask the court director permission to cover individual court hearings.
“Some reporters stayed in the courthouse like it was their house,” Ang Vong Vathana said. “[Chiv Keng] wanted reporters to ask permission first,” he said.
Chum Kanal, the director of the League of Cambodian Journalists, decried the ban on tape recorders and cameras, saying they are a necessary part of a journalist’s equipment and are important for recording facts and avoiding lawsuits.
Several reporters who requested anonymity said they were allowed into the court compound on Friday but were forced to leave their equipment with the guards.
Article 4 of the Cambodian Press Law states that journalists may report “on all aspects of the judicial process, including its procedures.”