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Ministry To Tighten Broadcast Control

The Ministry of Information will strengthen controls on broadcasting in 2009, officials said Thursday.

In 2009, the ministry plans to continue to monitor and control the publishing of newspapers and the broadcasting of radio and television to ensure media outlets follow ministry guidelines and the Cambodian Press Law, officials said at an annual ministry assessment for 2008.

“The arrests of journalists and rising complaints against journalists has occurred so far, because some journalists did not follow a journalistic codes of conduct,” Information Minister Khieu Kanharith, who is also the spokesman for the Cambodian government, said on the sidelines of the meeting.

According to its 2008 report, the Information Ministry called in editors in 27 cases of print and three cases of broadcasting to advise them to follow ministry guidelines and not to publish or broadcast stories against the good culture and tradition of the nation.

The ministry also ordered the permanent closure of Angkor Ratha FM105.25, in Kratie province, shortly after the station leased air time to four political parties (and not the ruling Cambodian People’s Party) in the run-up to 2008 elections.

The closure of the station, together with the arrest of an opposition editor, Dam Sith, and the murder of one of his journalists, Khim Sambo, drew much criticism from national and international press freedom defenders last year.

Um Sarin, president of the Cambodian Association for the Protection of Journalists, said monitoring and control of broadcasts did not affect freedom of expression in Cambodia. However, he said, the ministry should better control its media passes and licenses to ensure quality journalism.

“The problems arising so far come from the ministry itself, which just issues press cards to those who are not professional journalists,” he said, adding that there are hundreds of newspapers in Cambodia, but only a few that regularly appear in newsstands.

According to the ministry’s 2008 report, nearly 600 print media outlets exist nationwide. Among those, national newspapers and magazines account for more than 500; the rest are bulletins and foreign papers and magazines. Of more than 200 broadcast media, more than 80 are live and relay radio stations; the rest comprise local and cable television.