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.