Journalists Should Notify Authorities for Repeated Provincial Reporting: Spokesman

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Authorities grab a camera during a small protest outside the Chinese Embassy in Phnom Penh on October 23, 2020. (Matt Surrusco/VOD)

A government spokesman has said that journalists should report to the provincial information department when frequently reporting in a jurisdiction, a suggestion rejected by an independent-media advocate.

Phay Siphan spoke at a press conference on Thursday reviewing five years of achievements by the Information Ministry, saying officials can feel intimidated by visits and fail to answer questions or to allow reporters to enter certain areas.

“If the journalists have frequent missions in a province, they should submit a letter to the provincial information department” to state their intentions, Siphan said. The letters can be valid for a year, he said.

Provincial information departments can play an important role as officers often have information about news stories, he said, adding that proper documentation was important to avoid confusion.

“I’ve seen some journalists’ behavior — they mostly just only wear their organization’s card, not a card approved by the ministry, and intimidate people in the province,” Siphan said.

Cambodian Journalists Alliance executive director Nop Vy, however, said there should be no such requirement to inform authorities about reporting visits.

“Citizens don’t have to inform their presence to authorities or anyone when they travel, and we journalists [should not] have to inform them before travel [either],” Vy said.

He noted that Information Minister Khieu Kanharith had previously rejected similar suggestions to report to provincial authorities when made by the Kampot governor and other provinces.

“It has the purpose of restricting the freedom of the press,” Vy said.

Kampot governor Mao Thonin in November ordered his provincial information department to tightly control the work of journalists, saying “all news institutions that come to work in the province must go through the department’s review.”

Kanharith retorted at a seminar on press guidelines that this was the wrong approach.

“A provincial governor has said, wherever journalists go, they have to report to the authorities — it is not like this,” Kanharith said.

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