SRP Submits Draft Law on Freedom of Information

Opposition lawmakers submitted their proposed law on freedom of information to the National Assembly yesterday, a senior lawmaker said.

SRP parliamentarian Son Chhay said he wrote to assembly President Heng Samrin to request an open debate of the law, which would require the government and public institutions to make more information available to the public.

According to a draft obtained yesterday, national institutions including courts would be required to share information with the public.

“For the public interests, every public institution shall publish and broadcast any important information at least [once] every year,” reads article six of the 14-chapter draft.

In a brief statement attached to the draft and signed by six SRP lawmakers including Mr Chhay, lawmakers claimed that the law would make most major government documents publicly available.

“We officially submitted the draft to the National Assembly [yesterday] morning,” Mr Chhay said, adding that the draft was finalized in 2007 but the party wanted to wait for the anticorruption law to come into effect. With the anticorruption law in place, the freedom of information law will be more effective, Mr Chhay said.

“The draft law is necessary for the government to fight corruption because the law will make comprehensive information [available],” he said.

Assembly Secretary-General Leng Penglong said he had received the draft and submitted it to the standing committee for a decision on whether to schedule a debate.

CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap said he was not aware of the proposed law, but said he believed it was unnecessary as the country’s existing press law could fill the same role with only a few amendments.

“The National Assembly already ratified the press law, which just needs amending to close the loopholes,” he said, adding the committee would make its decision after reviewing the SRP draft.

“I don’t know whether the…committee will decide to debate the draft law or not,” Mr Yeap said.

Executive director of the Community Legal Education Center Yeng Virak, who helped draft the proposed law, said he believed it was extremely important for the future development of Cambodian society.

“The law is necessary to everyone,” he said.

Moeun Chhean Nariddh said yesterday the law would not only help the public, but would offer better protection for journalists too.

“It would…reduce the risk of being sued for disinformation and defamation,” he said.

The Assembly announced it would begin debating a multi-party Asean air transport agreement on Monday.


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