Gov’t Officials Ask Newspapers To Be More Respectful

Cambodia’s Minister of Infor­mation on Monday called representatives from all 277 of the country’s newspapers to encourage them to be more respectful of government officials.

Minister Lu Laysreng released a directive urging newspapers to refer to authorities by their courtesy titles—“excellency” or “his highness” in English—but he said the rule is not mandatory.

He compared recent criticism of Cambodian officials to the way US papers have scrutinized US President Bill Clinton.

“We are not American, so we have to follow our good customs to address our people,” Lu Lay­sreng said.

The directive sparked debate among the roughly 50 media representatives who attended Mon­day afternoon. One reporter challenged the minister to explain why journalists should follow the law when the country has so many unsolved crimes. For instance, he said, his editor was killed in 1993 and no one has ever been arrested.

“We cannot follow the law until authorities follow the law,” the reporter said.

The meeting comes just days after Minister of Culture Princess Bopha Devi and other officials were accused by the Bangkok Post of running drugs.

She has denied any wrongdoing, but police on Monday said they would check into the case.

“We asked the police to look to this issue because this allegation is serious,” said Sau Phan, first deputy general director for the national police.

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday decried the editorial, published on July 23, but said he would not retaliate against allegations made by the paper.

The government has recently suspended one Khmer-language paper and threatened others with legal action for articles they have published.

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