Cambodian journalists gathered Monday to observe World Press Freedom Day and decry rights abuses.
Um Sarin, president of the Cambodian Association for the Protection of Journalists, told the 30 or so assembled reporters that their colleagues have suffered harassment and physical attacks with no one held accountable.
Thun Saray, president of the rights group Adhoc, also addressed the reporters, urging them to work with civil society to ensure their work is not impeded and they are not endangered.
“Reporters should file complaints against those who abuse them,” he said.
Despite the press freedoms granted in the Constitution, Thun Saray said, people can harass reporters by unfairly accusing them of defamation or provoking insecurity. He called on the next government, the formation of which stalled Monday on a press freedom issue, to prevent intimidation and to give journalists greater access to public information.
The ruling CPP called off talks on the formation of a new government Monday and demanded the removal of a royalist radio station’s director, whom they accused of broadcasting anti-CPP rhetoric.
Sam Rainsy Party Deputy Secretary-General Meng Rita used the seminar to attack the CPP, saying its communist nature makes it intolerant of critical reports.
“Opposition reporters are its enemies, because it is of the culture that nothing can oppose it,” he said.
Intended guests of honor—Minister of Information Lu Laysreng and his Secretary of State Khieu Kanharith—did not attend the gathering.
But Khieu Kanharith, who also serves as spokesman for the government and the CPP, said later that press freedom in Cambodia had gotten out of hand.“The Cambodian government offers too much press freedom,” he said.
He warned that reporters must recognize the boundaries they must operate in. “Court complaints can educate reporters to understand that they have freedom, but they must also know their responsibilities,” he said.
He also noted that physical attacks on reporters have declined considerably since the Constitution granted their occupation protection in 1993.
“Court complaints are better than shooting,” he added.