Non-Malevolent and Conscientious Truth is a Full Self- Protection Force

26 December, 2009

Sunway Hotel

Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Today, 26 December, 2009 in Phnom Penh, we, 50 Editors-in-Chief and representatives from both print and broadcast media (with the names and signatures in the attached list with this joint statement), met together in the 6th Editors’ Forum to discuss the topic “Media and New Penal Code: Press Freedom and Responsibility.

In the discussion on the topic, the Editors’ Forum summed up several issues, perspectives, experiences and recommendations so as to come into a conclusion and propose the following points:

Journalists are entitled to qualified privilege if their reports meet the following conditions: accuracy and completeness, fairness, upholding social justice and being non-malevolent. The Editors’ Forum appeals to various Cambodian competent authorities to take into consideration and accept the qualified privilege of the journalists when there is a lawsuit against them even though they are not entitled to absolute privilege.

The articles in the new penal code, which are related to media practice, should not turn media outlets and practitioners to self censorship. The Editors’ Forum believes that the improvement of professionalism and legal knowledge is the best way to ensure press freedom as stated in the constitution. Thus, Journalists’ associations, and media organizations, should pay attention to their staff training in term of journalism and legal education.

Media outlets and practitioners have a full self-protection force. That is Non-malevolent and conscientious truth. It means that if a media report is made due to the public concern or for the public interest, it should not be subject to a lawsuit.

The Editors’ Forum is particularly concerned over the court procedure of immediate show-up/appearance and it appeals to the court, before a hearing is held, to conduct a thoughtful investigation, because the immediate show-up procedure can lead to an incomplete process as any case against a journalist involves many issues and affects individual rights guaranteed by the constitution.

The Editors’ Forum appeals to the court not to temporarily detain any journalist, who is sued, before a substantial hearing, because his or her freedom will not affect the court’s investigation.

An individual decision to launch a disinformation lawsuit, which can lead to imprisonment, against journalists, becomes another concern. An individual shall file only a libel lawsuit against a journalist and the disinformation lawsuit shall be rarely filed by top national institutions.

Amid the Cambodian-Thai conflict, media must pay attention to fact-based reporting to ensure that the people understand well about the conflict; and to avoid extremely racial anger and harming the national interest.

So far, Cambodia has had up to 19 journalists’ associations which have their own independence but share the same objective. In the upcoming 2010, we want to have a mechanism which unites the 19 associations to perform key tasks such as protection of journalists, representing Cambodia in the regional and international events, and advocacy of important issues.

We would like to appeal to the Royal Government of Cambodia under leadership of Prime Minister Hun Sen, for the celebration of new year 2010, to ask the king to grant royal amnesty to all journalists who are currently jailed.

The Editors’ Forum supports the Royal Government of Cambodia for encouraging all institutions of the state, cities and provinces to appoint their spokespersons who are able to provide information to journalists in a timely manner. The Editors Forum urges the spokespersons, media officers and other relevant officials of various institutions to be bravely responsible for information and documents given to journalists.

Phnom Penh, 04 January 2010

Club of Cambodian Journalists