Governor Closes Weekly Meetings to Reporters

Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema said Monday that reporters will no longer be allowed to attend the municipality’s weekly meetings, which until now were open to the public.

“It is my rule,” Kep Chuktema said. “Journalists have no right to cover every meeting.”

But according to Chapter 1, Article 4, of the national press law, reporters have the right to publish “official information such as statements, meetings, meeting minutes or reports, etc” as long as “such publication is fully true or an accurate summary of the truth.”

“The rights of journalists have been limited,” Kep Chuktema said in reference to the press law.

He cited as precedent the Council of Ministers meetings, which have been closed to reporters for more than one year. He said if the Council will allow the press into its meetings, he will welcome reporters back.

But for now reporters will be issued news releases to inform them of the outcome of the weekly meetings, Kep Chuktema said.

He also confirmed that he had ordered the removal of speakers that once broadcast City Hall meetings to the public in the build­ing’s entrance hall.

Center for Social Development President Chea Vannath decried the ban and praised the administration of former governor Chea Sophara for the access it provided to reporters. “Reporters will in­form people about what is going on with the municipality’s efforts to develop the city. I will feel sorrow if the municipality’s doings are kept from the public because there will be no transparency,” Chea Vannath said.

“They should allow reporters to at­tend the meetings themselves…because reporters will no longer be able to ask questions when they have read and have questions about the news re­lease,” she said. “It’s not dem­oc­racy if ev­erything is kept quiet and secret.”

But Khieu Kanharith, government spokesman and a secretary of state at the Ministry of In­for­mation, agreed with Kep Chuk­tema. “Everything is up to the leaders. If the leaders of meetings thought that reporters should cover the meetings, they would allow it,” he said.

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