Cambodian PM’s son praises press freedom, despite father’s crackdown — Radio Free Asia

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen’s son defended press freedom at an event marking World Press Freedom Day in Phnom Penh on Tuesday, ignoring his father’s crackdown on journalists who criticized his government.

Lt. Gen. Hun Manet, an army commander who is expected to eventually succeed his long-ruling father, has glossed over growing restrictions on press freedom and civil rights in the country Hun Sen has ruled since. 1985.

“As Prime Minister Hun Sen said in his statement, the royal government is committed to protecting freedom of speech, freedom of the press and promoting cooperation between the government and press institutions which is vital for the development of the country,” said Hun Manet, 42. representing the father at the event, which was attended by more than 100 journalists, Cambodian media VOD reported.

World Press Freedom Day was established by UNESCO in 1991 to highlight the importance that a free press plays in society. This year’s theme, “Journalism Under Digital Siege”, is designed to highlight how developments in monitoring and surveillance technologies are affecting journalism and freedom of expression.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF), a Paris-based group, ranked Cambodia 142nd out of 180 countries and territories in its 2022 World Press Freedom Index released on Tuesday.

“Worried about having to relinquish power after more than 30 years in power, Hun Sen ruthlessly attacked the press ahead of the July 2018 legislative elections,” said RSF.

“Radio stations and newspapers have been silenced, newsrooms purged, journalists prosecuted, leaving the independent media sector devastated. Since then, the few attempts to revive independent journalism have drawn the ire of ruling circles,” the annual report said.

But in his speech, Hun Manet insisted that his father’s government sees the press as an ally in creating a better functioning society.

The government has prioritized its policy on the press to enable its participation in the fight against corruption and the promotion of democracy and respect for human rights to create a just society, peace and development, said Hun Manet.

“Of course we have criticism of the government that we have restricted freedom of the press,” he said. “The allegation is baseless and does not reflect the truth. Cambodia has a pluralistic government that respects freedom of expression and freedom of the press.

Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said at the event that the government was disappointed with reports criticizing the government. He claimed that NGOs that are not registered as news organizations produce negative reports based on the wishes of their donors. But he did not provide evidence to support this claim.

Government pressure

Sun Narin, a Voice of America reporter in Cambodia, told RFA on Tuesday that Hun Manet did not answer questions at the event. He also said that the press cannot write whatever it wants, even though freedom of expression is enshrined in the country’s constitution.

“There is pressure from the government,” Sun Narin said. ” I noted that [journalists] are afraid of the government.

He said he and other journalists were advocating for a law that would make government more transparent.

“We don’t have documents now,” he said. “It is difficult to have statistics. It is difficult to find information.

Hun Manet’s speech came a day after two dozen organisations, press associations, journalists and NGOs held a conference in Phnom Penh to discuss the deteriorating press freedom situation. in Cambodia.

Nop Vy, executive director of the Association of Cambodian Journalists Alliance, said the government must ensure that Cambodians get the information they need to make informed decisions in the June 5 local elections.

“Receiving information is essential and getting real information is even more important to improve the quality of life and the democratic process that ensures people’s participation,” he said.

“As Cambodia prepares for elections next month and elections in 2023, the government must ensure that information reaches every citizen, and any harassment against journalists must not continue.”

In Cambodia, journalists still face persecution, intimidation, violence, arrests and pretrial detention because of their work, Nop Vy said.

Free press advocates want the Cambodian government to end impunity for crimes against journalists, including physical assaults and murders, by bringing perpetrators and accomplices to justice. They also want the country’s information ministry to reissue revoked media licenses and expedite the passage of a right to information law, they said.

Meas Sophorn, secretary of state and spokesperson for the Ministry of Information, said the government was committed to ensuring more protections for the respect of press and speech freedoms.

Translated by Samean Yun and Sok Ry Sum for RFA’s Khmer Service. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

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