Monday, 5 May 2008

Press Freedom Day: Cambodian Journalists Reveal Corruption, Land Grabbing, and Human Rights Violations

Posted on 4 May 2008.
The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 558

“Every year Cambodian journalists and other journalists in the region and in the world meet together to celebrate the 3 May as World Press Freedom Day, which is a deeply meaningful day, and it is not only a day for journalists, but also for the people of all sections in Cambodia and in the world. Journalists have organized different activities as professionals, to show the importance of their freedom, and they joined together to check and reevaluate the press freedom conditions within the past one year, and they made efforts as well, to find solutions, to guarantee that journalists can fulfill their duties honorably and without intimidation, threats, or any violent reactions.

“This year, UNESCO observes the World Press Freedom Day under topic of Freedom of Expression, Access to Information, and Empowerment of People, recognizing the great importance of journalists and of the media. This organization considers democracy and social development to be difficult to travel on a smooth road, if the citizens in society do not get access to accurate, fair and politically unbiased information. In this sense, the press plays an important role in empowering the citizens by providing rich and useful information that helps people to gain control over their own lives .

“Last year, the Club of Cambodian Journalists continuously monitored the situation and has seen that journalists and the media in Cambodia substantially participated in changing society towards improvement, by providing information in many different ways and with content, related to the revealing of corruption, of land grabbing, and of human rights violations. Meanwhile, Cambodian media are working actively while Cambodia is moving toward the fourth term parliamentary elections on 27 July 2008, and all recognize that real and non-biased information is very important for all Cambodian citizens to choose their representatives as well as to be the real owners of their lives and their fate.

“On World Press Freedom Day, there surely are different commentaries about the situation of press freedom in Cambodia, but when we look at the press freedom in the region and in the world, we can see many positive points related to the situation of press freedom in Cambodia. According to a report by Reporters Without Borders, 86 journalists were killed, and most of them were in North Africa and the Middle East in 2007, but no Cambodian journalist was killed.

This organization said that press freedom of Cambodia ranks 85th among 165 countries observed. Cambodia is considered as the country which has the highest level of press freedom in Southeast Asia. These figures and this evaluation satisfy us, but it also tells us that we must make more efforts to make Cambodia rank better. According to the observation of the Club of Cambodian Journalists, during the one year starting from 3 May 2007 to 3 May 2008, there were seven lawsuits against journalists for publishing articles which are now still in hands of the courts, and there were eleven threats against journalists while they were working.

“However, the Club of Cambodian Journalists finds that it has to insist that a requirement for journalists to fulfill their mission effectively, is that journalists must have the freedom to report, have the rights to get enough information, and have good working condition, without economic and political pressure.

“On the occasion of this Press Freedom Day, we would like to stress two main issues: to promote the right to access to information in Cambodia quickly – that means to create an effective system of spokespersons in ministries and state institutions, and to create and adopt legislation assuring the right to access to information. Moreover, we should also focus on working conditions and the living standard of journalists, because most journalists in Cambodia get low salaries, making it difficult to live appropriately in society, and many conditions, stated in the labor law, are hardly implemented. Thus, the Club of Cambodian Journalists would like to call on all media companies to give more attention to their journalists – both their working conditions, and their salaries.

“On this Press Freedom Day, the Club of Cambodian Journalists would like to send our sad condolences to the families of the 86 journalists and their families of 20 media agencies in the world who were killed. We also ask for the release of the 67 journalists who have been abducted, and we ask for justice and for the release of the 887 journalists in detention. All of them were either killed, abducted, or arrested while they were doing their work of seeking for real information for other human beings in different parts all over our world.”

Koh Santepheap, Vol.41, #6335, 3-4.5.2008

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