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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs        5  May 2011

No press freedom in Cambodia

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The targeting of Cambodian journalists through defamation and disinformation legislation and the closure of an opposition newspaper were responsible for a decline in Cambobia's world ranking for press freedom last year, according to a report released yesterday.

According to the Freedom of the Press 2011 report, released by United States-based watchdog organisation Freedom House in conjunction with World Press Freedom Day, Cambodia's press freedom ranking plunged to 141 for 2010 out of 196 countries and territories rated, compared with a ranking of 134 for 2009.

The report described Cambodia as "not free" and declared that the number of people worldwide with access to free and independent media had dropped to its lowest level in over a decade.

Cambodia's ranking also declined within the Asia-Pacific region to 30 in 2010 out of 40 countries and territories, compared with a ranking of 29 in 2009. "Cambodia's score ... deteriorated due to an aggressive use of disinformation and defamation legislation against journalists, as well as a reduction in media diversity following the closure of an opposition newspaper," the report said.

Opposition newspaper Khmer Machas Srok relaunched in March after closing down in June 2010 due to funding shortages and illness suffered by its publisher, Heng Chakra. Heng Chakra was jailed for disinformation in 2009 for articles published in Khmer Machas Srok which alleged that officials working for Deputy Prime Minister Sok An had been involved in corruption. He received a royal pardon in April last year.

Moeun Chhean Narridh, director of the Cambodia Institute for Media Studies, said yesterday that defamation and disinformation legislation had been used by some government officials to deliberately prosecute journalists.

"It constitutes political harassment," he said. "The government needs to remove the criminal provision from [defamation and disinformation] law."

Moeun Chhean Narridh added that the government must adopt a draft law on freedom of information.

"We need a legal framework that guarantees access to information," he said.

Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith told The Post in December that a draft policy paper on freedom of information finalised by the government in 2007 - which would serve as a framework for a draft law.

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This year in Thailand-what next?

AseanAffairs   04 January 2011
By David Swartzentruber      

It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

The first issue that can’t be answered is the health of Thailand’s beloved King Bhumibol, who is now 83 years old. He is the world's longest reigning monarch, but elaborate birthday celebrations in December failed to mask concern over his health. More


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