We , 34 journalists (listed with the attached signatures in this declaration) who are editor-in-chiefs, presidents of journalist associations, and representatives of media organizations in Cambodia, met in Sihanouk Ville for two days to discuss the media situation, freedom of the press, and the media responsibility in the democratic society. After thorough debate, we agreed to release a joint statement with 12 points as follow:
- The Cambodian Editor Forum (CEF) urges the royal government, and other institutions concerned, especially the courts and legal practitioners, to use the press law to deal with cases between journalists and parties involved; and to stop using the transitional penal code causing journalists to face their arrest and imprisonment regarding with their expression. So far, there has been a trend to sue journalists by charging of MISINFORMATION after DEFAMATION article was withdrawn. CEF considers the trend as an attempt to continue to arrest journalists and such case is affecting freedom of the press in the Kingdom of Cambodia due to using the insufficient law to punish journalists fulfilling their jobs. Using the transitional penal code to take action on journalists for their expression, Cambodia could not declare itself as a nation guaranteeing freedom of the express.
- In order to facilitate in accessing to information, CEF calls on the legislative body to make amendment article 5 (point #2) of the press law stating that….authorized officials of all institutions must response to a (media) request in 30 days... CEF would like to ask all institutional officials to have to response to journalists in 4 days after the request. At the same time, CEF urges [the legislative body] to approve the law on access to information as quick as possible.
- Up to present, CEF observes that journalists are hard to get information from various institutions, especially the state institutions, because those institutions do not have their press officers or spokespersons or that they have such officials but the officials are not authorized to provide information to journalists. CEF, therefore, would like to appeal all institutions to have their own press officers or spokespersons who have adequate rights, and journalists can interview and request for information.
- Based on article 12 of the press law stating that Media must not print or reprint any information affecting political stability and the national security. Employers, editor-in-chiefs, and articles writers can be prosecuted by fining from (5,000,000 riels) to (15,000,000 riels) which is not included in the penal punishment , journalists can face with imprisonment when the courts find that their articles affect political stability and the national security. In order to ensure for the proper illustration on the law and to avoid using this law to threaten journalists, CEF requests to define the clear definition of Political stability and the national security.
- Every activity of journalists who try to intentionally block other journalists to access to information is immoral and unprofessional act. This is a part interrupting freedom of the press and access to information in the democratic society. Any news report that journalists tell readers, listeners and viewers that they have an exclusive story while another also has the same story at the same place and at the same time is lying and unprofessional.
- Every news article must not be based on rumors or anonymous sources. Media of course can use unidentified sources in their news stories until they make verification for many times reaching a conclusion that the information is true.
- CEF discussed and reached an agreement to clearly classify between opinion articles (columns, analysis or editorials) and news stories. We realize that journalists must not express their own opinions in news articles. Journalists can express their own opinions in their opinion articles, commentaries, or editorials but based on professional journalism. This is not to confuse readers, listeners, and viewers over columns, analysis or editorials.
- Every quote taken from any news article to be reprinted re-broadcasted must not be added contrasting the original article’s concept that cause readers, listeners,and viewers to misunderstand the original article.
- CEF agreed that all Cambodian media have not to print any horrible picture of dead body on newspapers’ pages. Picture of any dead body to be printed should be covered the server image of the accident or murder. Taking this position is participating in violence reduction in the society, and gaining more respect from both national and international communities.
- CEF agreed to raise more carefulness for printing various cartoons in order to avoid any incitement provoking problems amongst communities, religions, and races.
- News reporting involving with criminal investigation or a court case which is not yet judged, journalists must be highly careful for their own expression or commentaries without clear basis. Doing this is to avoid any interruption of the court case processing and provoke problem to legal workers, witnesses, and the disputed parties; and also to show journalists’ profession and responsibility.
- CEF agreed with unanimity to solidly join together aiming to raise the media reputation in the Cambodian society, and at the same time to fulfill our work with responsibility. CEF agreed to scale up cooperation and solidarity with other journalists in the region and the whole world in order to actively participate in high raising and strengthening media profession in our world.In this concept, we are all trying to implement the above points and continue to join such media forum in order to promote freedom of the press and real profession.
Sihanouk Ville 29 December, 2007