Speaking on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day, Funcinpec Senator Prince Sisowath Sirirath told reporters on Tuesday that as a democratic country, Cambodia should not have a Ministry of Information.
“One day I hope the government will close the Ministry of Information,” the prince said, adding that the government ministry hampers the free press. “I would like the media to be independent and to play a role in telling the truth to the public.”
He added that he hoped the Phnom Penh governor will one day be responsible for the media, but monitor it less.
Discussions will be held in the Senate and among other government officials about closing the Information Ministry, Prince Sirirath said.
Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said he was too busy to speak to reporters Tuesday.
Khieu Kola, an independent journalist in Phnom Penh, said that such a decision was up to the National Assembly.
But, he added, any political party wishing to abolish the ministry should have made that desire clear before the election.
“We have a lot of staff [at the Information Ministry]. You have to be careful, let them have a good job,” Khieu Kola said.
But he added, government money should be focused on social services like providing water to the countryside.
While Prince Sirirath spoke out for what he called greater press freedom, he also criticized journalists for asking for money from government officials in return for giving them positive press coverage.
The prince admitted that he has in the past given hand outs to journalists. “I told them that this money was for drinking coffee,” he said, adding that the money was not intended to buy influence over them or their publications.
It is common practice for journalists to take money from high-ranking officials in exchange for writing positively about them, or for not writing information that could implicate them in scandals.