A study commissioned by the Cambodian Center for Independent Media and Freedom House has found that more than 80 percent of the Cambodians understand their rights to information, but only one is five of them tries to exercise it.
“They have complained of difficulties to seek the public information,” said Pa Nguon Teang, executive director of CCIM. “This is because the authorities don’t want to give out information.”
Much information in Cambodia is classified “confidential,” he said, often unnecessarily. “Our system is a closed one, not yet a democratic one,” he said. Officials “follow a practice of staying safe by not speaking or giving out information.”
The study, conducted from October 2011 to January of this year, interviewed 1,522 people in Phnom Penh and the provinces of Kampong Speu, Prey Veng and Takeo. It recommends a law guaranteeing the freedom of information be drafted and put in place.
“We have been advocating for the past 10 years for a law on access to information,” Pa Nguon Teang said. “But there seems to be less political will from the government. This is because there is widespread corruption in our country.”
There are no punishments for those who refuse to release information, he said. But upcoming elections—at the commune level this year and the national level next year—are a good chance for people to press their representatives to be more accountable.
“If the authorities or their members of parliament, and the local or national representatives, do not respond, they should stop supporting them,” he said.