The Ministry of Information on Monday issued a directive ordering both radio and television stations not to let presenters read a newspaper article on air, a common practice, without first seeking permission from the publication.
The ministry also ordered presenters not add their own comments when reading articles and threatened to shut down any stations that disobeyed the directive, which was stamped with the signature of Information Minister Khieu Kanharith.
“Previously there are some television and radio stations that take information from the newspaper and magazine for their own information program without asking permission from the owner,” read the order, which did not name any specific media outlets.
These stations “also add more [personal] commentary on the context [of the story], which affects [news] institutions and people’s freedom and rights and also contradicts professional ethics and abuses copyright,” the order stated.
Rith Chettra, deputy director general of Bayon Television and Radio, acknowledged that reading and commenting on newspaper articles is common in the Cambodian media, but he said such abuses do not happen at Bayon.
His presenters are told to respect a professional code of ethics when reading articles and to first get permission, he explained.
“I am not in favor of adding more words on the newspaper articles, like in the rape case,” said Mr Chettra. “The victim is already a physical victim. When the presenter reads the news and adds words, she becomes a psychological victim.”
Sar Sokhom, a writer for the Khmer-language newspaper Koh Santepheap Daily, also welcomed the directive, saying he was upset to see his stories read on television or radio without permission.
“I was not happy about that and I support the order,” he said. “Getting the information from the newspaper and reading it is an abuse of copyright.”
But Moeun Chhean Nariddh, director of the Cambodia Institute for Media Studies, said the directive is not good for press freedom.
“It’s up to the media profession to regulate themselves,” he said.
Mr Nariddh said reading a newspaper article is fine as long as presenters do it in a professional way.
“I think reading news on the radio and television is really important for people in the countryside who don’t have access to printed media,” he said.
(Additional reporting by Clancy McGilligan)