Political elite in power must guarantee media freedom

Organizers and participants, as well as Cambodian journalists, bloggers and social media activists, and NGOs activists joining in the Reflection Forum on Cambodian Election 2013, call on the Cambodian political elite in power to guarantee the inalienable rights of Cambodian people, particularly the rights to media freedom and freedom of expression. Such rights are affirmed on Article 19 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

We view that the present political dispute brought about by the uncertain conclusion of the Cambodian 2013 election had proven the incompetence of National Election Committee (NEC), which is widely seen aslacking in independenceto implement its mandate to organize fair and democratic elections.

In this uncertain political situation, Cambodian people need independent and reliable information to enable them to make decisions. Such needs can be fulfilled if the media workers have, on the one hand, a capacity to demonstrate their ethical and professional standards and, on the other hand, are protected and insured by a safe legal environment. Unfortunately, Cambodian media workers are still challenged in terms of professionalism and simultaneously have no protection under the present legal framework.

The actions of the police of Daun Penh district and unruly mob’s forcible dispersal of the non-violent hunger strikeconducted by community activists on 22 September in Phnom Penh had not only resulted in injuries among the protesters but also among local and foreign journalists. The mob also destroyed the camera of a local news photographer. This incident prevented the media coverage of the violence and obstructed public’s rights to know. Unfortunately, instead of perpetrators of violence being investigated, such incidents keep repeating.

To ensure that the media can continue to carrying out their role in providing information in the critical post-election situation, we call on all political elites to:

  1. Respect international standards on freedom of information and
  2. Avoid any action that will worsen or legitimize current restrictions on access to information in Cambodia.
  3. Respect and uphold media freedom to ensure that all media outletsincluding online and social mediaare free to report on all stories during the election, including on post-election days.
  4. Investigate the 22 September incident and take legal action on any member of the mob who attacked journalists and people’s peaceful gathering
  5. Promote discipline among the police forces to enable the fulfillment their duty to keep the peace and protect law-abiding citizens.
  6. Provide protection to journalists who conduct post-election coverage.

October 9th, 2013, Siem Reap, Cambodia,

Cambodian Center for Independent Media (CCIM)
Cambodia Institute for Media Studies (CIMS)
Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (COMFREL)
Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA)

 

Individual signatories:

  1. Pa NguonTeang, CCIM
  2. Koul Panha , COMFREL
  3. Kem Ley, independent researcher
  4. Moeun ChheanNariddh , CIMS
  5. Wisnu T. Hanggoro, SEAPA
  6. Sim Samnang, Koh Santepheap
  7. Sok Savy, Radio Australia
  8. Sam Poupiseth, Hang Meas TV
  9. Preap Sambathchoun, NEFIC
  10. Keo Nak, Khmer Makaka
  11. Im Sambath, Meatophoum
  12. Phat Vichet, citizen journalist
  13. Eng Sokha, CCHR
  14. Oun Vansak, citizen journalist
  15. Neang Sovathana, citizen journalist