The Ministry of Information late Monday issued a statement requesting that radio and television stations cease commenting on newspaper articles that are read daily on some broadcast media outlets.
Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith on Monday explained that the directive was not intended to suppress press freedom or freedom of speech, but to protect intellectual property and safeguard journalism ethics.
“The commentary on newspaper articles is improper and against the code of ethics in journalism,” reads the statement, which is signed by Khieu Kanharith, “so the ministry asks all the directors of radio and television stations to stop additional comments on their programs.”
Khieu Kanharith said that the commentaries confused viewers and listeners and distorted the original meaning of newspaper articles.
“They make some comments, some jokes,” that people might think came from the newspapers themselves rather than from the radio broadcasters, he said.
He also cited concerns about copyright and intellectual property and said the directive was issued at the request of newspaper editors.
“It’s the copyright of the newspaper,” he said. “You must not change the content, the integrity of the article.”
Pen Samithy, president of the Cambodian Club of Journalists, said he did not know why the directive was issued, but that he and most newspaper editors supported it.
“I think this statement will be supported by the editors,” he said. “[Commentaries] make people confused. And sometimes people think the newspapers write them, but in fact they don’t.”
But he said he hoped the tradition of commentary could continue in a clearly defined, separate format.
He suggested, for example, that one set of programs could be reserved for reading newspaper articles and another for commenting on them.
Var Vannak, a newscaster on TV3 and Radio103 FM who sometimes comments on news articles, said he supports the directive.
“We should follow because [the ministry] are our superiors,” he said, but he added that not all commentaries are harmful and that some provide useful information to people in the countryside without easy access to print media.
Soy Sopheap, morning anchor for CTN, said he, too, supports the directive.
“It affects individual rights,” he said of the commentaries, explaining that sometimes newscasters slander alleged criminals before they have been proven guilty.
Officials at Voice of America and Radio Free Asia declined immediate comment late Monday.
(Additional reporting by Van Roeun)