Forum Calls for Greater Public Access to Information

Cambodians need more access to information, speakers said Monday at a World Press Free­dom Day forum hosted by Unesco and the Royal University of Phnom Penh’s Cambodian Communica­tion Institute.

The forum, with the theme “Freedom of Expression: Access to Information and the Empower­ment of People,” focused on greater access to information for journalists in order to allow them inform the public and keep a check on how public money is being spent.

Whether they work in the print media, radio, television or on the Internet, journalists should have improved access to information, particularly ahead of July’s national election, the speakers said.

“If information is not provided [so that] the public can be aware of the truth, it is a crisis of hurtfulness to the people that can result in a disaster to the nation,” said SRP lawmaker Son Chhay, one of 11 speakers at the forum. Son Chhay is also chair of the National Assembly commission on media and information

Other speakers, including US Ambassador Joseph Mussomeli, German Ambassador Frank Mann, Club of Cambodian Journ­alists President Pen Samithy and Press Council of Cambodia Pre­sident Um Sarin, championed the passage of a Freedom of Infor­mation Law, which they said is currently in development.

Ministry of Information Under­secretary of State Thieng Van­darong, responding to other speakers’ claims that the government restricts access to information, said that the existence of hundreds of journalists within Cam­bodia “shows the high intention of the government…in support of the freedom of information.”

Thieng Vandarong acknowledged that information is “maybe difficult” to obtain.

He added that the last time his ministry did a media-access training session for government officials was after the first government mandate, which ended in 1998.

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