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Rights Groups Demand Closure of Information Ministry

A leading rights group Wednesday demanded the closure of the Ministry of Information, calling it biased and a repressive obstacle to press freedom.

In a statement issued ahead of World Press Freedom Day, the Cambodian Center for Human Rights accused the Information Ministry of bias toward the ruling party.

The ministry sought to repress opposition voices from the media and other aid agencies by denying them licenses, often without reason, to broadcast or print their views, the center said.

It also failed to inform some organizations of press conferences and statements, the center said.

Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said he ran a neutral office that helps journalists find information. He said he regretted that the center did not clearly understand the work of the ministry.

The Cambodian Center for Human Rights was founded by Kem Sokha, who himself was jailed in 2006 on defamation charges and recently started his own political party, the Human Rights Party, to compete in the 2008 national elections.