The Ministry of Information issued a statement Tuesday in response to criticism by the Cambodia Association for the Protection of Journalists that claimed the ministry is drafting a law to regulate the Internet.
In a statement published on the Southeast Asian Press Alliance Web site Monday, the CAPJ said the government was planning on passing a law in late 2009, and that the group was worried the law would be used as a tool to control Internet users and bloggers.
“It seems the government is applying autocratic rules to control everything about communication…. [A]nd we appeal for the government to reconsider its current plan,” the CAPJ statement said.
Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith responded in a statement released Wednesday that his ministry is working on a new draft media law, but, he wrote, it would only apply to print and broadcasting media. The government was not trying to regulate the Internet, the statement said.
“I think the writer should call and ask before they publish this article. It is not under the authority of the Ministry of Information” to regulate Internet use, Khieu Kanharith said by telephone Wednesday.
Responsibility over the Internet falls under the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications, he added.
The author of the new media law, Information Ministry Secretary of State Nouv Sovathero, declined to answer questions Wednesday but said during an interview Jan 8 that the law was only meant to update the media law passed in 1995.
“The new law is not to control—I don’t like that word ‘control’—the new law is to manage the media and to clarify for the journalists,” Nouv Sovathero said last week.
Before the draft law is handed to the Council of Ministers, journalists and media organizations will be allowed to comment on the draft, he said.
Pen Samithy, president of the Club of Cambodian Journalists, agreed with Nouv Sovathero that the old media law needed to be updated and amended, and that it was important to put regulatory framework in place as long as the government doesn’t try to control content: “But the ministry should only think about technological matters…only think about regulating the administration and not the content,” he said.