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Group Marks Cambodian Press ‘Partly Free’

The pro-democracy group Freedom House rated Cambodian press “partly free” in 2007, citing government efforts to stymie criticism in the wake of a report on illegal logging last year.

The group made its announcement at the opening of a media museum in Washington Wednesday, ahead of World Press Freedom Day, which is Saturday.

Cambodia ranked 26 amont 40 Asia-Pacific countries in terms of press freedom, according to Freedom House.

“You really, really saw journalists trying to do their work and really trying to give people the information about somebody in a high-level corruption allegation,” said Sarah Cook, of Freedom House.

Government “pushback,” including the banning of the Global Witness report, which implicated senior ministers, businessmen and many people close to Prime Minister Hun Sen in illegal logging, contributed to a decline in Cambodia’s press freedom scores, she said.

Cambodian People’s Party lawmaker Chiem Yeap said press freedom, including rights for non-governmental organizations and political parties, was much better than other countries in the region.

“Any press [outle] can curse whomever they can, even criticize the king or sometimes cause headaches to Prime Minister Hun Sen,” he said. “They are really critical.”

Freedom House rated Finland and Iceland as having the most freedom of the press. Burma and North Korea rated the worst.