High-ranking government officials criticized journalists for passing off their political opinions as facts and for misunderstanding the difference between freedom of expression and freedom of press during a round table discussion broadcast by TVK on Sunday.
During the discussion Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan, Secretary of State for the Ministry of Information Nouv Sovathero, and Chhim Phal Vorun, chair of the institute for civic education, discussed the freedom and responsibility of a free media.
“We talked about the responsibility of the media and the rule of law,” Mr Siphan said during an interview Monday. “The press law ensures that the journalists can write anything but if the information is false or incitement they will be held responsible. So, don’t mix the fact with your own opinion.”
Mr Siphan said the media is always allowed to evaluate the government’s achievements based on facts but they cannot insult individuals or provoke people to violence and protest.
And, he added, newspapers supporting the SRP should write according to its politics but should also report on the government objectively.
“Criticism we welcome but it should not be an insult. [The media] must respect the dignity of the person,” he said.
Cambodia’s government has been criticized by international and national rights groups for using legal sanctions such as defamation and disinformation against journalists.
International watchdog Reporters Without Borders’ most recent assessment includes Cambodia among countries that “waver between repression and liberalization, where the taboos are still inviolable and the press laws hark back to another era.”
Local rights group Licadho released a report in connection with the World Press Freedom Day on May 3 pointing out that all broadcast media and most of the print media is directly or indirectly tied to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling CPP and that only newspapers supporting opposition parties have been sued for defamation.