Club of Cambodian Journalists has made its commitment to help the Cambodian Journalists avoid lawsuits by setting up a Press Council to deal with the cases between the journalists and other parties, Pen Samitthy, President of the Club of Cambodian Journalists said today in Siem Reap.

It is no doubt that the seminar is looking at the legal challenges facing the media and what we should do in order to help the media have a better environment to play effectively its role in a democracy, he told the regional seminar Media Laws: Media and Law: A Difficult Relational organized by Konrad Adenauer Foundation in Siem Reap.

While the judicial system and the law enforcement in Cambodia are relatively weak, the Club of Cambodian Journalists is making its efforts to help the Cambodian journalists cope with this situation, he added.

The Club of Cambodian Journalists thinks that self-regulation is crucial if we want to protect our journalists against any abuse or threats, the CCJ president added.

Therefore, we are now working on this and our final goal is to have a press council in Cambodia to serve as a self-regulatory body which deals with all complaints between the Cambodian media and the public. The objective of the body is to assist journalists avoid legal lawsuits while it upholds the respect of code of conducts among the Cambodian journalists” he said. However, he said that the journalists can be sued if their reports caused serious harm.

The president of the Club of Cambodian Journalists praised the Press freedom of Cambodia as the freest in the region by citing the statement issued by the Reporters without Border. He said that Reporters without Borders ranked Cambodia 85 among 169 countries whose press freedom was surveyed in 2007. Even though the ranking is still low, the Cambodian media is seen as the freest among the press freedom in the ten South-East countries (Indonesia: 100, Malaysia:124, Philippines: 128, Thailand: 135, Singapore:142, Laos: 161, Vietnam: 162, and Burma: 164) after the press freedom in Thailand drastically declined under former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and the current leaders.

However, he said that Cambodia is not a perfect place for the journalists. There are 6 journalists who were killed between 1993 and 1997. Since then there have been no journalists who were murdered. While there are no journalists who have been killed during the last few years, arrests, threats, lawsuits are still concerns for the journalists. The trend against the press freedom has turned from violence to the use of legal system as the Cambodian politicians became politically mature. In 2006, there were 7 lawsuits against Cambodian journalists, an arrest of journalist and 12 cases of threat against the journalists. Fortunately, there were some of the cases which can be solved out of the courts through negotiation in which Club of Cambodian Journalists served as the mediator.

Supported by Konrad Adenauer Foundation, Club of Cambodian Journalists is a neutral and independent non-profit organization whose missions are to promote the press freedom, to protect journalists and professionalize the Cambodian media.

Phnom Penh, 16 November 2007