Report of the 6th Editors' Forum

Media and New Penal Code: Press Freedom and Responsibility

With support from Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS), Club of Cambodian Journalists (CCJ) on Saturday organized an Editors’ Forum on “Media and New Penal Code: Press Freedom and Responsibility”. It is the 6th forum conducted by CCJ.

Speaking in her opening remarks in the forum, Rabea Brauer, KAS-Cambodia representative, said she felt very proud that CCJ raised such an important topic. Journalists must protect themselves and protect their freedom while the country’s new penal code is coming into effect, she said. Rabea also told the forum that KAS always strongly supports legal reform in Cambodia so that the country becomes the rule of law and it has press freedom, democracy, transparency and accountability.

The forum was attended by many editors-in-chief, editors, representatives from local media organizations, and media observers, including embassy officials, while several key speakers from both media organizations and legal body were also invited to share their practical experiences and knowledge.

Speaking in a session on Media and New Penal Code: Articles Related to Journalists: Defamation, Disinformation, and Privacy. How to Avoid Lawsuits?, Deputy Prosecutor of Phnom Penh Municipal Court Sok Roeun reviewed parts of the new penal code and he urged the media outlets and practitioners to obey the law in order to avoid any lawsuits on disinformation, defamation, insulting, and incitement.

Sharing her experience in the session, Ms. Chaing Sinath, a judge from Phnom Penh Municipal Court and law lecturer, also urged journalists to carefully read several articles of the new law, which are related to media including articles on privacy invasion, defamation, insulting, and incitement so that journalists have broad understanding on the issues and they can avoid any legal action against their work.

In the forum, the two legal experts stressed that the press freedom must go along with responsibility and they appealed to the Cambodian journalists to read all articles of the new penal code, which are related to the media.

However, Pen Samitthy, the CCJ president, said that the journalists should not turn to self-censorship, due to the existence of the penal code. He added that, the journalists shall continue making as many reports as possible for the public interest. In order to avoid lawsuits, the journalists shall improve their professionalism and should know about what should be and should not be reported, in accordance with the law.

The session on the new penal code and the press freedom was followed by another session on the current situation of the press freedom and professionalism. In the session, Mr. Neth Pheaktra, Phnom Penh Post newspaper Chief of Staff (Khmer section) dealt with the topic Factors which impact on Press Freedom: Analysis from Business and Political Perspectives, Mr Pen Bona, Cambodge Soir newspaper Co-editor-in-Chief, touched upon the topic Impact of Media Reports during Conflicts, and Mr. Tes Sararith, Rasmei Kampuchea Daily newspaper senior reporter talked about Experience in Journalists’ Lawsuits.

After almost five-hour discussion, 50 editors-in-chief, editors, and representatives from media organizations agreed to release a joint statement (see the attached file). The statement urges all institutions concerned to think thoroughly before taking legal action against journalists while urging media colleagues to improve their capacity and professionalism.

Speaking in his closing remarks after listening to the forum report read by CCJ President Mr. Penn Pamitthy, H.E. Hor Sopheap, Information Ministry Secretary of State representing Information Minister H.E Khieu Kanharith, said the topic raised in the forum was really interesting and useful. The the ministry and the minister sincerely congratulated and appreciated CCJ for its initiative to have such important forum in which journalists can strengthen their solidarity and build up their capacity in order to avoid any legal actions against their professional work, he said.

Phnom Penh, 04 January 2010