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Report Highlights Fear Among Media

The rights group Licadho has issued an 80-page report, "How Politics, Money and Fear Control Cambodia's Media," which details government restriction on media from the French colonial period to present.

Licadho president Kek Galabru said the report was compiled after interviews with 150 journalists and reporters. She also said there is a strong restriction on media in Cambodia, especially on TV and radio, minor restrictions on newspapers and magazines, and few on the Internet because only small amount of people can access the Web.

"Not many Cambodian people can access to the Internet," she said. "But people can access TV and radio more, so we can see the government always restricts freedom of expression through these two media instruments. But newspapers and magazines have some more freedom to publish." Kek Galabru said

The report found that 91 out of 150 journalist said they work with fear, while 31 others said they were not afraid and 19 others dare not to speak out.

"A lot of reporters reported that they work with fear," Kek Galabru said. "If they work with fear, we can't say there is a freedom of media and expression."

Regarding the opinion about the restriction on media in Cambodia, a director of the rights group Adhoc, Thun Saray, said the media system in Cambodia has some positive and negative points.

"The positive point is that they allow some political parties to open their election campaign through radio channels," he said. "Before, we didn't see such thing, but now we see some space for that."

Recently, however, opposition editor Sam Bith was arrested and Angkor Ratha radio in Kratie was closed, while the legal system does not respect the media law, he said.

"We have already erased and pulled out the defamation law, which could be used to detain people, but now they use the disinformation law to restrict the media," he said. "The definitions between the two laws are totally different. The disinformation [article] can be used on a person who tries to make the situation and security in the country chaotic, but the charge of disinformation that involves with an individual is called defamation."