Government Weighs Press Pass Limit

The Ministry of Information is look­ing to restrict the number of press identity cards issued to jour­nal­ists, Minister Khieu Kanharith said Wednesday, saying too many people are able to obtain the passes and use them to extort money.

“A lot of people use the Minis­try of Information press passes to extort money,” he said. “Even taxi dri­vers have press passes, and they use them to protect illegal log­ging trucks from the police.”

The ministry is considering limiting large newspapers to two pass cards for reporters and two for pho­tographers, and small pa­pers to one pass each for a re­porter and a photographer, Khieu Kan­harith said. He said additional special passes could still be issued for major events.

Thieng Vandarong, deputy general director of the ministry’s Me­dia Center, which issues passes, said Thursday that his staff had urged the government to allow newspapers more passes. He suggested that daily papers could be issued 20 pas­­ses; twice-monthly papers, 10 pas­ses; irregularly published pa­pers, five passes; and NGO magazines, 10 pas­ses.

“Reporters who have the Minis­try of Information press passes will have more access to cover stor­ies,” Thieng Vandarong added.

Three-month passes cost $5 for for­eign publications and $1 for lo­cal publications, generally issued on request of the editor-in-chief.                         Said Thieng Vandarong: “We use the money from making the press passes to run the [media] center.”

“We issue the press pass just to re­­cognize that a person is a re­porter, so when they extort money from people, they should be res­ponsible before the law,” Thieng Vandarong said. Cambodian Club of Journalists director and Rasmei Kampuchea Daily Editor-in-Chief Pen Samithy agreed with the minister’s assertion that a restriction would  re­duce extortion. But ultimately the responsibility falls on the re­porters, he said.

“It is very important for re­porters to adhere to their code of ethics, and for newspapers to do good business, so they can support their reporters,” he said.

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