Minister Ambivalent on Controversial Law

Minister of Information Lu Lay Sreng has given conflicting res­ponses to mounting pressure from journalists and human rights workers to scrap a sub-dec­ree the critics say threatens Cam­bodia’s freedom of the press.

In a meeting with journalists and human rights observers this week, the minister said the sub-decree, which ostensibly is a freedom of information act but which critics say increases government control, cannot be annulled. How­ever, Lu Lay Sreng also said he would welcome more negotiations, according to some who attended a meeting.

The act calls for the release of any government-held information to the public unless it could compromise “national security,” an individual’s privacy, or existing copyright laws. Some have ex­pressed concern, especially over the national security wording, saying it will allow the government to censor information.

Although the meeting ended with the minister promising further discussion, some at­tendees were not impressed.

According to those who attended the meeting, the minister said he is “willing to help.”

Lu Lay Sreng voiced “half-and-half support, but not 100 percent. His support is 50 percent yes and 50 percent no,” said Director of the Center for Social Develop­ment Chea Vannath.

Um Sarin, president of the Cam­bodian Association for the Protection of Journalists, said the meeting did nothing to end his calls for scrapping the law.

“This sub-decree must be dropped because it is threatening our freedom of press. This thing is like a tiny branch to cover over the whole tree of the press law,” Um Sarin said.




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